Three New Insurers Confirm Policy to Not Underwrite Oil & Gas Development in the Arctic
Total Climbs to 17 International Companies that Protect the Sacred Coastal Plain, though Still No Clear Commitments from U.S. Insurers
For Immediate Release
Fairbanks, AK – Two Bermuda-based insurance companies, ARGO Group and Fidelis Insurance Holdings Limited, a privately owned insurer, and Japanese insurer Tokio Marine Holdings, made commitments in recent weeks that none of the companies will insure new oil and gas development projects in the Arctic, including the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Argo Group confirmed via email to the Gwich’in Steering Committee and allies that “providing insurance for any Oil and Gas drilling in the Arctic circle, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, its construction, contractors, infrastructure or operation is not within our current risk appetite. Therefore, we have not and do not intend to provide insurance services associated with such projects.”
Fidelis made a public statement that extends its ESG underwriting guidelines and sustainability commitments to cover a range of industries and issues relating to insurance, specifically oil and gas development in the Arctic. “Fidelis will not directly insure Arctic oil & gas exploration and drilling (and will not insure any company whose revenues from such activities account for >20% of total revenues). The Arctic is defined as per the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP),” the company said.
Tokio Marine released a public statement about revisions to their climate strategy that said, “We have revised our policies to prohibit the following business where we previously determined whether or not to undertake transactions (insurance underwriting, investment, and financing) based on the customer’s careful consideration of environmental and social factors, etc… Prohibit new business transactions on Arctic oil and gas extraction.” Tokio Marine defines the Arctic as north of the Arctic Circle, and the policy specifically mentions the Arctic Refuge.
With the addition of Argo, Fidelis and Tokio Marine there are now 17 international insurance companies with commitments to refuse insurance for new oil and gas projects in the Refuge. These additions signal a rapid shift within the industry: just one year ago, the Gwich’in Steering Committee and allies released a scorecard rating insurance policies that protected the Arctic Refuge. At that time, only 6 companies had policies in effect that would exclude Arctic drilling.
“We welcome the Argo Group, Fidelis and Tokio Marine to the growing list of international insurance companies that have committed to protecting Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit, the Sacred Place Where Life Begins,” said Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. “It’s good to see companies recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Arctic Alaska. It is critical for more companies to understand that drilling on our sacred land is bad for business. We will always stand united to protect the Porcupine Caribou Herd, the Arctic Refuge, and the Gwich’in way of life, which is all interconnected.”
With increasing support from international companies, the Gwich’in Steering Committee and 240 organizations recently sent a letter to U.S. insurers detailing the urgency to enact policies to protect the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge. To date, no major U.S. companies have responded to the GSC’s requests for policy despite many attempts over two years; while AIG implemented a policy that ruled out any new “Arctic” energy exploration, they did not specify if this encompassed the Arctic Refuge.
The Gwich’in people are the northernmost Indigenous Nation living in 15 small communities across northeast Alaska and northwest Canada. Since time immemorial, the Gwich’in have occupied these lands with respect and have always stood united to prevent any destruction to this place they hold very sacred. The Coastal Plain, which comprises 1.5 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, is the calving ground of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, on which the Gwich’in and other Indigenous tribes depend to sustain their people and culture. Oil and gas development will not only harm the animals, plant life and resources that the Gwich’in depend on, it will exacerbate the devastating effects of the climate crisis, which are already being experienced by the Gwich’in and Indigenous Peoples in the region.
Among broad strategies of frontline and international advocacy, the Gwich’in have been seeking permanent protections for the Coastal Plain. After decades of bipartisan protection, the Trump administration opened the area to oil and gas leasing in 2017. Although leases were sold in 2021, all energy companies and legacy lease holders walked away from their leases within the Refuge in 2022. However, the Alaska state agency AIDEA still holds leases, and the 2017 Tax and Jobs Act mandates a second lease sale to be held by 2024.
To learn more about the advocacy work and campaigns targeting financial institutions that the Gwich’in Steering Committee and allies have engaged in, please visit ourarcticrefuge.org.