Major life insurers taking steps, but falling short on climate action: report

By Ian Bickis, Canadian Press | September 14, 2023 | Last updated on September 14, 2023
2 min read

A new report from an advocacy group finds two of Canada’s biggest insurers are taking steps toward climate action, but still have a ways to go.

The report from Investors for Paris Compliance says climate action from Sun Life Financial Inc. and Manulife Financial Corp. is important because they are Canada’s first and fourth-largest fossil fuel investors (a separate category from banking).

The second annual assessment report says Sun Life Financial Inc. started disclosing some financed emissions this year, but that it still has no overall policy on phasing out fossil fuel investments, including coal.

Sun Life had investments totalling US$11.6 billion in coal and US$12.7 billion in oil and gas last year according to data from the advocacy coalition Investing in Climate Chaos.

The insurer said in a statement that it’s committed to doing its part to help solve the climate challenge, and has been building a climate team to track and measure its performance among other initiatives.

The report says Manulife Financial Corp. made progress by formalizing coal exclusion policies this past year, including not investing in new thermal coal projects globally, and setting interim targets.

It notes however that while both companies have started to disclose some financed emissions, they still exclude significant chunks of their overall assets under management from disclosure, and don’t provide details on how they intend to meet their net zero by 2050 targets.

Manulife, which the report says had US$5.1 billion in coal investments and US$6.7 billion in oil and gas investments last year, declined to comment on the report but pointed to its numerous climate goals including interim investment emissions targets set for 2027.

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Ian Bickis, Canadian Press

Ian Bickis is a reporter with The Canadian Press, a national news agency headquartered in Toronto and founded in 1917.