„The Polish coal sector is Europe’s biggest polluter, putting 36 Polish cities on the list of top 50 most polluted on the continent. It is responsible for the increased risk of suffering from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and it has been estimated that it causes over 5 800 premature deaths annually, most of them outside Poland.”
“Polish coal mines and power plants undermine the much needed international efforts to curb climate change and jeopardize the CO2 emissions reduction targets set by the Paris Agreement of 2015.”
“Opening new open-cast lignite mines and constructing new coal-powered power plants is inconsistent with plans to phase-out coal in the OECD countries by 2030. Providing financial support for coal companies is unprofitable in the long term and exposes financial institutions to a significant reputational risk, especially as the COP24 in Katowice, Poland, is approaching.”
Such were the arguments presented by the Polish NGOs whose representatives attempted to convince the Boards of Directors to quit financing and insuring Polish coal companies and underwriting their mines and power plants.
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Activists of ECO-UNIA participated in Commerzbank’s AGM which took place in Frankfurt am Main. Commerzbank is one of the main shareholders of Polish mBank which financially supports some of the largest Polish coal companies: Enea, PGA and ZE PAK.
‘If CommerzBank wants to support pro-health and environment-friendly activities, it should consistently stop granting, also through their subsidiary, new loans to coal companies or signing agreements concerning issue of bonds by coal companies. It should also implement principles and requirements concerning environment and climate protection for its whole capital group. We hope that CommerzBank won't fund Ostrołęka C power plant in Poland, or Energa and Enea which have created this project’ Katarzyna Kubiczek stressed.
Commerzbank refused to answer questions concerning coal projects due to business confidentiality rules. The Bank upheld its last year statement that mBank is seen as an independent company which is autonomous in management, and declared no commitments to move mBank to implement an environmental zero-emissions strategy, only to watch mBank’s projects.
Earlier this year activists also participated in the AGM of mBank in April in Warsaw.
‘If mBank wants to support health- and environment-friendly activities, it should act consistently) and stop granting new loans to coal companies or signing agreements concerning issue of bonds by coal companies. It should also implement principles and requirements concerning environment and climate protection – especially withdrawal of coal as raw resource. We appreciate mBank's effort to improve its climate policies and we hope that it won't fund Ostrołęka power plant, or Energa and Enea which have created this project’ says Joanna Kubicka.
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On Wednesday, May the 9th, a representative of the Association Workshop for All Beings participated in Allianz AGM in Munich. His questions concerned the new climate strategy Allianz had announced a week before which would limit the insurer’s coal portfolio and underwriting of coal and lignite mines and power plants. The Board of Directors was also given two recently published reports on the planned Ostrołęka C coal power plant which show its investment risk and its negative impact on regional development.
Allianz confirmed that it no longer underwrites coal power plants and mines which would mean that it wouldn’t renew existing contracts with facilities such as Opole and Kozienice power plants. The new climate policy is being discussed with Allianz Poland and social and governance questions of companies such as ZE-PAK are being verified.
“Allianz confirmed that it distances itself from large coal and lignite projects such as the Opole or Ostrołęka C power plants but it is not going to phase out all coal insurance until 2040. In our opinion it is not a sufficiently ambitious goal. We hope that the insurer will verify their climate policy and much sooner severe its ties with companies extracting and burning fossil fuels and thus causing climate change and pollution’ says Alan Weiss from the Association Workshop for All Beings.
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A representative of Foundation “Development YES - Open-pit Mines NO” attended two AGMs held last week. On Thursday in London he called on the CEO and the Board of Aviva to divest from Polish coal sector and to extend company’s divestment policy to third-party assets managed by its pension fund operating in Poland, Aviva OFE. Aviva’s investments in coal sector, including Polish coal sector, were the theme of “Aviva and coal: A very long engagement”, a briefing released by Unfriend Coal network and Polish NGOs earlier that day.
“Aviva’s strategy of engaging with a group of coal companies in order to encourage them to move from fossil fuels is insufficient as long as it does not involve divestments from the rest of companies. Especially Polish ones that plan further investments in coal capacity and new mines instead of phasing-out coal” - says Jan Chudzyński from Foundation “Development YES - Open-pit Mines NO”.
Few days earlier Chudzyński addressed the Board of Management of Talanx, the owner of TUiR Warta which operates in Polish insurance market. He demanded that Talanx adopts a company-wide climate strategy leading to an end to insuring coal mines and power plants, as had been previously announced by Allianz. Warta is one of the most active insurers of Polish coal sector, insuring several power plants, including Kozienice and Opole, as well as the lignite complex ZE PAK that comprises lignite mines and power plants.
“Despite owning Warta and being a major shareholder in reinsurer Hannover RE, both of which have strong impact on Polish coal sector, Talanx remains a rather unknown brand in Poland. Warta is a long-time insurer of Polish coal mines and power plants. Recently, it insured new coal units built in Opole power plant and Kozienice power plant, as well as lignite open-pit mines and power plants owned by ZE PAK. Hannover RE acts as one of reinsurers of PZU, Polish company insuring a number of coal sector projects” - explains Jan Chudzyński from Foundation “Development YES - Open-pit Mines NO”.
Foundation “Development YES - Open-pit Mines NO” is a member of the Unfriend Coal network which calls for insurers to cease underwriting any new or existing coal-fired power plants, coal mines and any coal-related infrastructure projects. Insurers are uniquely placed to support the transition away from coal. By ceasing to underwrite and invest in coal projects, they can improve public health, increase life expectancy for thousands of people, and support international climate targets and the fight against dangerous global warming.
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Taking an opportunity of the AGM season, activists addressed their demands directly to CEOs of insurance and financial companies. Earlier in April they also attended AGMs of Generali and Munich RE, other insurers of Polish coal sector.