Zurich Insurance says it already meets Figueres’ 1% green investment target

Ex-UN climate negotiator issued challenge at PRI in Person 2017

Zurich Insurance has become one of the few investors to say it has met the 1% green challenge set by former United Nations climate negotiator Christiana Figueres at last year’s PRI in Person event.

Figueres had called for 1% of assets under the PRI to be allocated to green investment.

Figueres, the former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, threw down the gauntlet at the 2017 event in Berlin for PRI signatories to get to 1% of their assets under management into clean technologies and renewable energy by 2020.

Figueres said: “So, my challenge, my friends would be for the PRI to strive to be at 1% of the entire assets under management, under the PRI. One percent by 2020 being invested in clean technologies and renewable energy.

“One percent of your assets under management, which – if I have the number correctly – that you’re sitting on more or less $70 trillion under management – that would get us actually pretty close to what we need to be for the decarbonisation, which is $1 trillion per year, starting in 2020.” (See video here.)

On Twitter, Zurich said: “Dear Christiana Figueres, we accepted your challenge and we are proud to report that we have 1.4% of our asset under management invested in #greenbonds, predominately financing renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. We are looking forward to further scaling up these investments to make the 2020 climate turning point a reality.”

Johanna Köb, Head of Responsible at the insurer, wrote on LinkedIn: “Remember when at PRIinPerson17 Christiana Figueres issued the 1% AuM challenge to asset owners?“One year later we’re at PRIinPerson18 and GCAS2018, we have delivered on this challenge with our USD 2.7bn green bond portfolio alone. Of course we will continue to scale our impact investments – the current target is USD 5bn (both green and social across asset classes).”

A PRI spokesperson said: “A number of signatories have met or exceeded Christiana’s challenge but I’m not aware of any others that have made formal statements to that effect.”

“Dear Christiana Figueres, we accepted your challenge”

Figueres had called for an announcement at the next PRI in Person (i.e. this month’s event in San Francisco) and the ultimate response was the Investor Agenda, a new public disclosure platform, unveiled at this month’s event.

“Last year, Christiana Figueres highlighted the year 2020 as a turning point for climate change,” it says on the Investor Agenda home page.

“While many investors are inspired by this opportunity, they lack the support to take action on low carbon investments, with supply cited as a key challenge.” It highlights issues like “definition and interpretation, fiduciary duty and consistency with previous commitments”.

Figueres’ successor at the UNFCCC Patricia Espinosa welcomed the Investor Agenda, saying it offers a “clear path to scale-up investor action” while Figueres called it “hugely important”. There’s no mention of the 1% challenge.

Meanwhile, ratings agency Fitch has signed up to the PRI. Fiona Reynolds, CEO of the PRI said: “We welcome Fitch Ratings to the PRI and are delighted they will join our credit ratings agency initiative.”