Documents implicate global insurers in Brazil’s oil expansion plans
January 20, 2022 — Global insurance companies Chubb, MAPFRE, and Tokio Marine insure the majority of Brazil’s offshore oil and gas drilling, according to a report entitled Fueling Climate Change: The Insurers Behind Brazil’s Offshore Oil Expansion released today by Insure Our Future. Based on previously undisclosed documents, the report finds that these three companies insure* Brazil’s national oil company Petrobras, which extracts nearly 93% of all Brazil’s oil and gas. Chubb and Tokio Marine, along with AXA, Liberty Mutual, Fairfax, Argo, and several Brazilian insurers, also insure exploratory oil and gas operations by international companies.
Brazil — Petrobras in particular — plans to massively expand offshore oil and gas operations. This directly contradicts the scientific consensus on the need to immediately end fossil fuel expansion. According to the UN, we must decrease oil and gas production by 4 and 3% respectively every year. Yet Brazil plans to expand oil production by up to 70% over the next decade as part of its ruthless extractivism. By supporting these efforts, insurers are driving climate catastrophe.
Ilan Zugman, Latin America Director at 350.org, said: “It is completely absurd that international insurance companies like Chubb, MAPFRE, and Tokio Marine come to Brazil to support the fossil fuel industry extracting oil from some of the most sensitive regions of the planet.”
Elana Sulakshana, Senior Energy Finance Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, said: “Chubb CEO Evan Greenberg has claimed that Chubb is doing its part ‘as a steward of the Earth.’ But any company that claims to care about the climate, biodiversity, and human rights cannot insure exploration and expansion of Brazil’s offshore oil reserves. To live up to its sustainability rhetoric, Chubb – along with Liberty Mutual, MAPFRE, and Tokio Marine – need to immediately rule out support for oil and gas expansion projects in Brazil and worldwide.”
Much of the country’s offshore oil reserves are in fragile ecosystems like the Great Amazon Reef, which stretches over 1000 kilometers from the mouth of the Amazon River to the Caribbean and is home to many endangered species. Petrobras — insured by Chubb, MAPFRE, and Tokio Marine — owns numerous concessions in the still-untouched area near the reef. Liberty Mutual and Chubb insure BP Energy’s exploratory operations in the region.
Zugman added: “The expansion of the oil and gas sector, in addition to keeping Brazil from meeting its Paris Agreement goals, also has the potential to negatively impact the lives of millions of Brazilians already in vulnerable situations such as traditional fishermen, Quilombolas, and Indigenous Peoples. As a sad example, communities impacted by the largest oil spill in Brazil’s history, in 2019, have yet to receive proper compensation and still find remnants of oil in their territories.”
The 2019 oil spill in Northeast Brazil spread over a staggering 3,000 kilometers, covering beaches and mangroves and killing coral, fish, turtles, whales, and birdlife. It decimated local economies, which depend on artisanal fishing and tourism. Quilombolas, Indigenous Peoples, and artisanal fishermen who depend on the ocean have mounted a decades-long push against offshore oil and gas.
Oil and gas projects and their associated spills would not take place if insurance companies refused to support them. Already, the 35 insurers that have restricted coverage for coal have led to reduced coverage, soaring premiums, and some projects failing to get coverage at all. Insurers can have the same impact on oil and gas, where 10 insurers control more than 70% of the market.
Pendle Marshall-Hallmark, Climate and Finance Campaigner at Amazon Watch, said: “Petrobras is a corrupt fossil fuel company further enabling the Brazilian government’s genocidal crusade to destroy people and planet for profit. Insuring or financing the expansion of the fossil fuel industry anywhere — and especially in a place as important for global climate regulation and Indigenous Peoples as the Amazon biome — is a catastrophic choice that flies in the face of the latest climate science. Insurers and financiers everywhere must exit Amazon oil and gas immediately.”
Supporting oil & gas expansion in Brazil contradicts insurers’ climate rhetoric
Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director for Stand.earth, said, “Chubb, MAPFRE, and Tokio Marine insuring new oil drilling is literally adding fuel to the fire. This year hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes, thousands lost their lives and millions of acres of forest burned down due to climate change caused primarily by oil, gas and coal. The science is clear that we need to stop expansion of new drilling and wind down production and these insurance companies are lying if they say they care about climate change while facilitating the growth of the problem.”
Yuki Tanabe, Program Director at the Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES), said: “Tokio Marine’s CEO Satoru Komiya mentions that climate change is a top-priority issue that we must address head-on. However, Tokio Marine’s support for offshore oil exploration in Brazil contradicts the company’s net-zero commitment as a new member of the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance. Tokio Marine needs to create a comprehensive fossil fuel policy that commits the company to not underwrite or invest in any fossil fuel projects.”
AXA, which has previously been called a leader on climate, adopted an oil and gas policy in late 2021. However, it does not rule out all oil and gas expansion, and leaves the door open for AXA to continue supporting new fields in the Potiguar Basin. Potiguar overlaps with the Fernando de Noronha Marine National Park and the Rocas Atoll — the first established national marine protection zone and habitat to the blue whale.
Louis-Maxence Delaporte, Fossil free finance campaigner at Reclaim Finance, said: “The fact that AXA can keep insuring oil companies and projects in one of the planet’s biodiversity and marine life hotspots goes to show that AXA’s current policy is both porous and ineffectual. AXA’s policy should be as clear cut as the IEA’s net zero pathway, and immediately rule out insurance coverage for any and all new oil and gas projects.”
AXA — along with Tokio Marine, Chubb, Liberty Mutual, Fairfax, and Argo — provide insurance in the form of performance bonds. These bonds allow oil companies to meet the Brazilian government’s requirement to provide a financial guarantee that they will do a minimum level of exploration.
The findings, presented in a report titled Fueling Climate Change: The Insurers Behind Brazil’s Offshore Oil Expansion by Insure Our Future, were accessed through freedom of information requests. However, an April 2021 regulatory change means that information on insurance for international oil and gas companies is unlikely to be accessible in the future.
The Insure Our Future campaign calls on insurers to immediately stop insuring new and expanded oil and gas projects, off the coast of Brazil and beyond, and for reparations to be paid to affected communities for the loss and damage they have already suffered.
Takayoshi Yokoyama, Team Leader at 350 Japan, said: “Insurance companies are supposed to manage and mitigate climate risk because their business is vulnerable to increasing natural disasters caused by global heating. What Tokio Marine and other insurers are doing is the complete opposite; fueling risks with these projects.”
Fernanda Wenzel, the journalist who conducted the investigation along with Naira Hofmeister and Pedro Papini, speaking on the government’s regulatory changes: “This setback will make it even more difficult to access information in an industry that is already very intransparent.”
*Tokio Marine (40%) and Chubb (60%) insure Petrobras’ general civil liability; Chubb (50%), MAPFRE (40%), and Tokio Marine (10%) insure transport; together, Gard P&I Ltd. and Skuld UK P&I insure marine protection and indemnity; and the Brazilian company Austral Seguradora insures production and exploration related risks to goods and equipment (100%).