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8 June 2021

Glasgow COP26 Must Signal End of Coal, Secretary-General Tells Insurance Development Forum, Urging Sector to Stop Public Support by New Year

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ closing remarks to the Insurance Development Forum, held today:

I am pleased to close this year’s Insurance Development Forum, which provides industry and development actors a platform to promote the transformation we need for a sustainable future for all on a healthy planet.

We are in a race against time to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.  Today, we are at 1.2°C of warming and already witnessing unprecedented climate extremes and volatility on every continent.  We face three imperatives in addressing the climate crisis.

First, we need to achieve global carbon neutrality within the next three decades.  Second, we have to align global finance behind the Paris Agreement, the world’s blueprint for climate action.  Third, we must deliver a breakthrough on adaptation to protect the world — and especially the most vulnerable people and countries — from climate impacts.

As insurers and as investors, the insurance sector has a key role to play.  Every country, city, financial institution and company needs to adopt plans for transitioning to net-zero emissions by 2050.  That means taking decisive action now.

Insurance companies control over $35 trillion of assets under management.  I encourage the insurance industry to align its portfolios and investments with net‑zero by 2050.  Your investments should not be contributing to climate pollution but should be directed towards climate solutions.  Invest in renewables, low- and zero-carbon transport and climate-resilient infrastructure.

Almost 20 insurance companies, as asset owners, have joined the Net‑Zero Asset Owner Alliance that was convened in 2019.  The Alliance is the gold standard in terms of setting credible and transparent targets and timelines to back the net-zero pledges that members have made.  I encourage more to join these collective efforts and ensure asset owners send a strong signal across the investment chain.

We need net-zero commitments to cover your underwriting portfolios, and this should include the underwriting of coal — and all fossil fuels.  COP26 must signal the end of coal.  I support the G7 commitment to end all public international support for coal by the end of this year.  Your industry needs to follow suit.

As well as mitigation, we must also emphasize adaptation.  I have recently been calling for more and better catastrophe-triggered instruments, easier access to flexible finance and increased support for regional adaptation and financing.  I am pleased to see this Forum at the forefront.

At the 2019 Climate Action Summit, I called for concrete commitments to address climate disruption and build greater resilience to rising climate risks.  One such commitment is Vision 2025 of the InsuResilience Global Partnership —endorsed by this Forum.  It targets protection from climate and disaster risk for 500 million vulnerable people by 2025.

Now we need to do more, and faster.  Climate and disaster risks keep rising.  I see four areas where we can advance.  First, the insurance industry should continue to place risk capital and technical expertise behind disaster resilience.  It can also invest more in developing countries, especially in low-carbon, climate-resilient infrastructure.

Second, developing countries need better ability to understand and manage risk and develop their own insurance markets, including for small businesses and individuals.  People in the least developed countries are, on average, six times more likely to be injured, lose their homes, be displaced, evacuated or require emergency assistance than those in high-income countries.  Making insurance markets more inclusive in terms of countries, businesses and individuals is a core strategy for building safety nets.

Third, the development community must advocate for better integration of risk finance and insurance into country development planning and financing.  Fourth, donor countries should support this work by recognizing the value of investments in governance, market transformation and premium support, especially for the most vulnerable countries.

In closing, I thank you all for your work in this critical space.  I hope you have been energized by the ideas and discussions of the past few days.

For information media. Not an official record.