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February 13, 2020

Boulder County to screen insurance companies for investments in clean energy vs. fossil fuels

Board of County Commissioners adopts proclamation urging insurance companies to divest from fossil fuels and end underwriting of extraction or use of fossil fuels

(Boulder County, Colo.) -- Under the banner of Insure Our Future, Not Climate Change,* Boulder County has joined an effort to urge insurance companies to divest from fossil fuel industries and move away from underwriting activities that fuel the climate crisis. Specifically, the county is seeking to avoid indirectly funding carbon-intensive, fossil fuel infrastructure projects by carefully considering the types of investments held by companies that insure Boulder County assets.

Boulder County Commissioners Deb Gardner, Elise Jones, and Matt Jones (Feb. 2020)

Boulder County Commissioners Deb Gardner (chair), Elise Jones, and Matt Jones (vice-chair)

In a proclamation adopted Feb. 13, 2020, the Board of County Commissioners pledged to examine the types of energy investments insurance companies make as part of the county’s analysis of what makes an insurance company “fit” with Boulder County’s commitment to sustainability and climate action.

The move coincides with Fossil Fuel Divestment Day, a national distributed day of action focused on divesting public funds, such as state pension funds and universities, from fossil fuels.

Insurance companies are supposed to protect us from catastrophic risks. Yet when it comes to the largest threat to humanity – climate change – insurers are fueling dangerous global warming by perpetuating our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.

Insure our Future website

Investments collected through insurance premiums often fly under the radar when it comes to funding fossil fuel activities, yet the 40 largest United States insurers hold combined investments of over $450 billion in the coal, oil, gas, and electric utility sectors. As part of the new policy directive, county purchasing and risk management staff are empowered to screen potential insurers for investments that underwrite companies or projects perpetuating the extraction and use of fossil fuels and to utilize that information as a determining factor in making recommendations to the board about potential insurers.

Ideally, a position like the one taken by Boulder County can lead to greater investments in renewable energy and alternative fuels projects that serve to address the environmental consequences of climate change.

At Boulder County, we’re continually looking at ways to reduce our carbon footprint and invest in energy choices that help combat the escalating impacts of climate change. By making it a preference to invest in companies that choose not to do business with some of the main drivers of climate change, we help further our goal of minimizing our contributions to the climate crisis and support the transition to a low-carbon economy.

– Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones

Like private insureds, Boulder County has a choice in selecting which insurance companies we do business with. Only by refusing to direct money to businesses that finance investments that exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions and global warming do we begin to bring about real change in the types of renewable energy sources we want to see supported with county funds.

Boulder County Commissioners Chair Deb Gardner

Fossil fuels investments are bad investments, just look at all the coal company bankruptcies. And that does not count the human and environmental toll of their pollution. By making this decision, we call on the insurance industry to take action against pollution and climate change by ending their underwriting of fossil fuel companies.

– Boulder County Commissioners Vice-Chair Matt Jones

*From the Insure our Future website:

Insure Our Future is a campaign demanding that U.S. insurers stop making climate change worse by ending insurance for and investments in fossil fuels, starting with coal and tar sands projects and companies. We are part of the global Unfriend Coal campaign, which promotes a rapid shift of the insurance industry from supporting and financing fossil fuels to accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy.

Three county commissioners sitting at dais