September 3, 2019

The Polish insurer persists with Turów mine, despite it being deemed uninsurable by Generali and others

 Warsaw, 3 September 2019 – Civil society organisations warn the Polish insurer PZU that it is risking its business, reputation, and the health of tens of thousands of people across Poland’s southern border on a coal project dismissed by its competitors. 

A day before an extraordinary general meeting of PZU, groups from Poland and the Czech Republic including “Development YES – Open Pits NO”, Europe Beyond Coal, and UnFriend Coal have petitioned (1) the company’s president, Paweł Surówka, to not insure the Turów lignite open-pit mine, as it will threaten drinking water, air quality, and the climate for decades to come. 

The insurance contract for the Turów open-pit lignite mine, operated by Polish state-owned coal utility PGE, expires at the end of the year, and so far no insurer has admitted publicly to underwriting it. Allianz, Ergo Hestia, Generali, UNIQA and Vienna Insurance Group have all stopped insuring new coal in Poland as the financial, political (2), and reputational risks are too great. 

PGE is seeking to extend the mine’s license until 2044, but this cannot be done until PGE proves that the mine will not impact drinking water – which it may have a hard time doing considering residents across the border from it in the Czech Republic have already been forced to use their own resources to dig deeper wells to obtain clean water. One town magistrate, in Witków near the Polish border, had to spend over 160 thousand złoty (around €35.000) to bring water to the local kindergarten. If the mine is expanded, authorities fear that up to 30.000 people will be left without drinking water. Supplying them with safe drinking water will come at a cost of €75 million (3).

“PZU and Warta are the last insurers willing to underwrite new coal in Poland, helping to undermine the emission reductions needed under the Paris Agreement while also threatening drinking water many thousands rely on,” said Kuba Gogolewski, senior financial campaigner at the foundation Development YES – Open-Pits NO. “Coal has no future beyond 2030, and if utilities refuse to accept this then financial institutions, such as PZU, need to show that they at least understand the new reality of energy politics and economics in Europe. The planned Złoczew mine and the expansion of the Turów mine in Lower Silesia are inconsistent with the scientific consensus on climate change, and a threat to human health and the climate.”  

“With the Amazon on fire, lethal heatwaves, hurricanes and typhoons all over the world, and plant & animal species disappearing at an unprecedented rate, it is incredibly reckless to keep insuring the fossil fuel industry – one of the leading causes of the climate crisis,” said Lucie Pinson, European coordinator of the Unfriend Coal campaign. “PZU, unlike most of its European peers, has not yet ruled out underwriting new coal mines and power plants. It is only a matter of time before the reputational and legal costs of PZU’s coal gamble reach a tipping point. It is better to be very late than to be very sorry.”

ENDS

 

Contacts:

Kuba Gogolewski – senior financial campaigner at the foundation Development YES – Open-Pits NO

+48 661 862 611, [email protected]

 Alastair Clewer – Communications Officer, Europe Beyond Coal 

+49 176 433 07 185, [email protected]

 

Notes:

  1. Letter to PZU: https://beyond-coal.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/PZU-letter-190903.pdf
  2. The problems caused by the Turów mine are a minefield at both the local and state levels of government.  Environment ministers from Czech Republic and Poland have been discussing them for many months, with the Czech representative accusing the Polish government of unilaterally deciding to allow the mine to be expanded, without taking into account the reservations of its southern neighbors. https://www.radio.cz/en/section/news/warsaw-ready-to-negotiate-bogatyne-border-dispute-with-prague
  3. https://theecologist.org/2016/nov/28/czechs-angry-severe-water-loss-caused-polish-mining and https://www.euronews.com/2018/12/21/poland-s-coal-paradox
  4. This is not the first time such an appeal has been sent to PZU. At the end of May 2019, Client Earth, the “RT-ON” Foundation, Europe Beyond Coal and UnFriend Coal sent a letter to this company regarding the possibility of insuring the planned Złoczew mine. Unfortunately, PZU has so far not responded to the call for greater responsibility in climate matters. According to the organisations signing the letter, the financial sector has a key part to play in speeding up the just transition away from coal, towards zero-emission energy sources. https://rozwojtak-odkrywkinie.pl/en/component/k2/item/410-letter-to-pzu-may2019