Mar 31, 2023
Munich Re Quits Climate Finance Alliance Due to Legal Risks
(Bloomberg) -- Munich Re is leaving an alliance of leading insurers that have committed to reduce emissions due to what it says are “material” legal risks, in a move that marks the latest blow to a coalition built by former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney.
The reinsurer will exit the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance, which is a sub-unit of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, it said on Friday.
“Opportunities to pursue decarbonization goals in a collective approach without exposing ourselves to material antitrust risks are so limited that it is more effective to pursue our climate ambitions individually,” Joachim Wenning, Munich Re’s chief executive, said in a statement.
GFANZ, which boasts some 550 members representing $150 trillion in combined assets, has sought to reassure members that efforts to coordinate emissions reductions won’t expose them to credible antitrust allegations. But with the political backdrop in the US growing more hostile, some signatories are balking at the perceived risks.
Munich Re is the biggest financial firm to walk out of a sub-group of GFANZ since Vanguard Group Inc. left at the end of last year. The world’s second-biggest asset manager said membership ultimately wasn’t compatible with a business model that relied heavily on tracking indexes. Vanguard also said at the time it was honoring its fiduciary obligations, and wasn’t in a position to decide on behalf of clients how to allocate funds.
While Munich Re has quit the insurance alliance, it remains a member of GFANZ because it’s also part of another subgroup: the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance.
Munich Re said it will pursue its own climate targets, instead of working toward net-zero emissions as part of the insurance alliance. The company has made clear it’s well aware of the risks that global warming pose to the insurance industry.
In January, Munich Re published estimates that insured losses from natural disasters hit about $120 billion in 2022, most of which was weather related.
“There is no denying that climate change is driving losses from natural catastrophes,” Ernst Rauch, chief climate scientist at Munich Re, said at the time. “Insured losses of more than $100 billion a year are the new normal.”
Carney, who co-chairs GFANZ, has sought to address the legal considerations raised by members, amid reports that a number of Wall Street banks last year threatened to leave if their concerns weren’t addressed. JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America Corp. and Morgan Stanley had signaled they may pull back from GFANZ should membership entail binding restrictions on fossil finance, people familiar with the matter said at the time. In the event, GFANZ shied away from binding restrictions, and the banks continue to be members.
The insurance alliance was convened by the United Nations and counts Axa SA, Allianz SE and Swiss Re AG among its 30 members.
(GFANZ is also co-chaired by Michael R. Bloomberg, the founder of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.)
(Updates to add in sixth paragraph that Munich Re is still part of GFANZ’s Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance. An earlier version was corrected to clarify that the company is only exiting the insurance sub-group of GFANZ.)
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