(Bloomberg) — AXA SA, France’s biggest insurer, is broadening the list of fossil-fuel activities that it will refrain from investing in, as pressure grows on financial companies to step back from funding industries that damage the climate.
Starting from 2023, the Paris-based insurer will stop investing in and underwriting upstream oil greenfield exploration projects, taking into account the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) framework as it becomes available, the insurer said on Friday.
“Going forward, AXA is determined to focus its support only on actors with the most far-reaching and credible transition strategies,” Chief Executive Officer Thomas Buberl said in the statement.
The insurer also intends to reduce its investment and insurance exposure to unconventional exploration and production, strengthening its criteria regarding arctic oil, tar sands and shale oil and gas. And the group, which aimed to invest 24 billion euros ($28 billion) in green and low-carbon energy by 2023, has brought that objective up to 26 billion euros.
Read More: Climate Change Replaces Pandemic as Insurers’ Biggest Worry
Though the announcement represents “some progress,” AXA’s new policy toward oil and gas “ultimately undermines its claims to climate leadership,” according to Lucie Pinson, executive director of Reclaim Finance. The group estimates that AXA will continue to offer insurance for 56.5% of planned oil and gas expansion. By that calculation, AXA “has derailed both its own commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and its responsibility as chair of the Net Zero Insurance Alliance to lead from the front on climate,” she said.
Axa was among the first major finance firms to divest from coal back in 2015 and in 2017 was the first big insurer to stop underwriting certain new coal projects. Since then a growing number of banks, insurers and investors have begun limiting financial services to the coal industry.
Axa is under pressure to deliver an ambitious oil and gas policy. A group of environmental non-profits placed an advert in the Financial Times last week, calling on Buberl to “follow the science and rule out any support for new oil and gas projects now.”
(Adds comment from the Sunrise Project)
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.