French insurance megalith Axa has announced that it intends to divest from €500 million worth of coal assets by the end of 2015.
Speaking at the Paris 2015 Climate Finance Day on May 22, Axa CEO Henri de Castries made the announcement as he spoke about the danger of climate change, and the responsibility of companies such as Axa to do something in response.
“The debate is no longer about whether, it’s about when,” said de Castries, the Chairman and CEO of Axa. “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is unequivocal: the climate system is warming, and many of the observed changes are unprecedented.”
de Castries continued, noting that insurance companies are “one of the only industries with a role to play in both the adaptation and mitigation aspects of the climate issue.” Subsequently, de Castries said that “it is our responsibility, as a long term institutional investor, to consider carbon as a risk and to accompany the global energy transition.”
Therefore, Axa will divest from companies most exposed to coal-related activities, halting investment in the following types of businesses:
- Mining companies deriving over 50% of their turnover from coal mining
- Electric utilities deriving over 50% of their energy from thermal coal plants
This divestment represents approximately €500 million, and aims to contribute both to Axa’s “de-risking” of investment portfolio as well as “building better alignment with Axa’s corporate responsibility strategy to build a stronger, safer, and more sustainable society.”
Many will likely criticize Axa for not fully divesting from fossil fuels, as has been the trend in the wake of announcements from institutions like the University’s of Edinbugh and Oxford. However, it is clear that Axa is doing its due-diligence and seeking ways in which to act in a way that is both environmentally friendly and economically viable. In the press release accompanying the announcement, Axa noted that it does “not fully support a broad version of the “stranded assets” hypothesis encompassing the entire fossil fuel value chain,” but that it does “believe coal both poses the biggest threat to the climate” and that “its business is the most likely to be constrained” in the future.
As can be seen below, Axa has not stood idly by with regards to climate change, taking a number of steps towards enhancing their knowledge of the issue, attempting prevention, and creating solutions.