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AIG makes environmental commitments requested in PC(USA) resolution

Mission Responsibility Through Investment has engaged with insurer since 2017 on climate change

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

Photo illustration by Malcolm Lightbody via Unsplash

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — American International Group, Inc. (AIG) has committed to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across its investment portfolio by 2050 in line with a shareholder resolution filed by the Presbyterian Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI).

The committee began engaging with the insurer in 2017 through its Banks and Financial Institutions subcommittee, and due to the substantial commitments from the company, MRTI has withdrawn the shareholder resolution.

The 2021 PC(USA) shareholder resolution asked that “AIG’s Board of Directors adopt and disclose new policies to help ensure that its underwriting practices do not support new fossil fuel supplies, in alignment with the IEA’s (International Energy Agency) Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario.”

Among AIG’s agreements, according to its statement, it will:

  • “… no longer invest in or provide insurance for construction of any new coal-fired power plants, thermal coal mines or oil sands …”
  • “… no longer invest in or underwrite new operation insurance risks of coal-fired power plants, thermal coal mines or oil sands for those clients that derive 30 percent or more of their revenues from these industries, or generate more than 30 percent of their energy production from coal …”
  • “… not investing in or providing insurance cover for any new Arctic energy exploration activities …”
  • “… using science-based emissions reduction targets, aligning with the latest climate science to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement …”

Rob Fohr

“MRTI has, understandably, received additional pressure in recent years to address the climate crisis, going beyond focusing on just fossil fuel producers and heavy fossil fuel users,” said Rob Fohr, director of Faith-Based Investing and Corporate Engagement for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “By engaging with banks and financial institutions about this critical matter, we are addressing the financing and underwriting of fossil fuel projects.”

The Rev. Dr. Lindley DeGarmo, Chair of MRTI’s Banks and Financial Institutions subcommittee, said, “This is a big step for AIG, and moves them from a laggard among U.S. insurers to a leader. We are pleased to see the progress they’ve made since we started engaging them in 2017.”

The Rev. Dr. Lindley DeGarmo

The work is in line with the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy’s overture to the 225th General Assembly, “Investing in a Green Future: A Vision for a Renewed Creation,” which directs MRTI to engage with insurance companies and banks to cease insuring or lending to new fossil fuel projects. MRTI will bring a recommendation to the General Assembly, held in June and July, that  five energy companies be added to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s  Divestment/Proscription List: Chevron, ExxonMobil, Marathon Petroleum, Phillips 66 and Valero Energy. It will be the biggest such recommendation by the committee since the 1980s.

MRTI only recommends divestment when the committee determines engagement is no longer working to persuade corporations to align with PC(USA) policy. In this latest development, engagement did work.

The AIG agreement is a major victory for MRTI and other advocacy groups. According to the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, with AIG’s commitment, only Berkshire Hathaway and W.R. Berkley still underwrite coal projects. But the committee will continue its engagement with the insurer as it works to implement these commitments.

Fohr said, “While some questions remain about how AIG will achieve their long-term goals and how they define the commitments, we look forward to continuing to work with the company as they become a leader among U.S.-based insurers.

The Presbyterian Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment/Office of Faith-Based Investing and Corporate Engagement and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy are Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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