AXIS Capital Holdings Ltd. said it would not insure oil and gas projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, becoming the first North American insurer to make the pledge after pressure from native Alaskans and environmentalists.
The move follows similar commitments from France's AXA SA and Swiss Re AG and comes as indigenous tribes living in Alaska and Canada prompt investors, oil companies and insurers to end their support for oil drilling in the Arctic.
"We believe climate-related risks are among the most serious problems facing the world today," said Conrad Brooks, AXIS Capital's general counsel and corporate secretary in Bermuda. wrote in a letter to the Gwich & # 39; in Steering Committee, which represents tribes in Alaska and Canada. "We also recognize the importance of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to you and your families, as well as to our planet."
Brooks said AXIS will not underwrite new insurance policies or offer optional reinsurance contracts, nor provide investment support for projects involved in the exploration, production or transportation of oil and gas in the refuge.
The decision is one of many steps AXIS has taken to improve its environmental and climate risk strategy, Brooks said. The company already has limited acceptance of thermal coal and oil sands projects.
The rugged Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska has become the newest front in a battle for oil drilling. When the Trump administration auctioned drilling rights in the refuge's coastal plain last week, only two oil companies are bidding for tracts alongside an Alaska economic development company that spent about $ 12 million to negotiate leases on behalf of the state. President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to permanently protect the refuge, home to polar bears, caribou herds and other wildlife – and it is one of the fastest warming places on Earth.
“The recent lease purchase ignored all our concerns and dismissed the climate crisis, but AXIS's commitment today shows that other companies agree with and respect us,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. "We need more companies that stand behind us and respect our human rights and our way of life."
Photo credit: The Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) is located near Copperville, Alaska, USA, on Tuesday, February 14, 2017. Four decades after the Trans Alaska Pipeline System went live, it transformed the North Slope into a modern Klondike, many Alaskans are afraid that the best days are over. Photo credit: Daniel Acker, Bloomberg
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