Why mothers are taking the fight for climate action to Lloyd’s of London

May 26, 2022

     By Duncan Green     

Guest post by Exfamer Maya Mailer

In torrential rain, I clutched my 3 year-old daughter’s little hand. I was outside Lloyd’s of London, one of the world’s biggest insurers of fossil fuels, with a group of parents, toddlers and a giant paper mache oil drum filled with dying flowers. It was almost Father’s Day 2021. We chanted and sang, and called on Lloyd’s Chair and father of four, Bruce Carnegie-Brown, to stop insuring dangerous fossil fuel projects for the sake of all our kids.

Last week, ahead of Lloyd’s AGM, I was back at Lloyd’s HQ. This time inside the building meeting Carnegie-Brown face-to-face alongside other mothers from Mothers Rise Up and Parents For Future UK. We were one of the first climate campaign groups to secure a meeting with the Chair. 

Why were we there? Because the actions of Lloyd’s marketplace are putting all our children’s futures on the line.

We looked Carnegie-Brown in the eye, and urged him to do everything within his power to stop Lloyd’s insuring some of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel projects. We told him that the time had come for brave leadership. 

Carnegie-Brown assured us he accepted the severity of the climate crisis, the science and the need for a transition but it was a question of pace. The transition away from fossil fuels must be orderly and managed. Lloyd’s needed to bring its stakeholders with it.

The Chair of Lloyd’s claimed he was doing everything within his gift. At moments, he appeared genuinely conflicted. He hinted that we should focus our effort on the UK government, while also conceding that it moved too slowly and such an approach was unlikely to bear fruit. 

He may be on a journey… But, sitting there with him, it was clear to us that he was and is still trapped by a system that priortises profit above all else. He is trapped by what the Lloyd’s marketplace deems is possible, rather than what is needed. 

Just 30 minutes before our meeting began, Lloyd’s shared their new Environmental Social and Governance report. That policy does not reflect Carnegie-Brown’s claim to take the science seriously. It is a step backward from their already flawed 2020 plan. It merely ‘encourages’ Lloyd’s member syndicates to cease insuring the most polluting forms of energy – coal, oil sands and Arctic energy. It says little of substance about mainstream oil and gas. Our collaboraters at The Insure Our Future campaign describe the report as exemplifying some of the worst forms of corporate greenwash.

The International Energy Agency (a small ‘c’ conserative group that advises governments on energy policy) warned in a landmark report, almost a year ago today, that there can be no new fossil fuel infrastructure, if we are to have a fighting chance of a safe climate. Scientists are saying it is now or never to limit global overheating to 1.5C.

I’ve been around the block but in the face of such dire warnings, it shocks me to my core that corporations such as Lloyd’s continue to find loopholes and excuses to insure new fossil fuels. 

Lloyd’s of London is huge and influential, underwriting 40 per cent of the energy market. If its marketplace were to stop insuring coal, tar sands and new fossil fuel infrastructure, it would send shock waves across the industry.  Many of these projects would not go ahead — making a huge difference to cutting carbon pollution and giving our kids a chance. 

Take the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). Seven insurers, including the world’s top four reinsurers, have ruled out underwriting EACOP because of its colossal climate impacts. 

By contrast, Lloyd’s has refused to rule it out, and has not even responded to a series of letters from African civil society groups expressing their deep misgivings about the project. If completed, the 900-mile-long pipeline would devastate communities and nature across Uganda and Tanzania and will generate 34 million extra tons of carbon emissions each year. It has already displaced some 7,000 farmers from their land. As the Kenyan coordinator, Omar Elmawi, of the StopEacop campaign says, “It’s a crazy idea, to be honest. If there are any benefits, they are going to go to the project’s proponents, not the people of Uganda and Tanzania.” 

I pressed Carnegie-Brown on EACOP in the meeting but he wouldn’t comment on specific ‘risks’. But without getting into specifics, how can we ever know that Lloyd’s is acting in good faith? Without specifics, Lloyd’s, like too many other corporations, can hide behind generalities.

Every single day, the mums of Mothers Rise Up wrack our collective brain: how the heck can we convince Carnegie-Brown and corporate bosses like him to use their power to protect our precious, threatened planet? We suspect he only met with us because we went for his Achilles’ heel: his love of cricket. We sent him a handmade cricket-meets-climate themed advent calendar last December, complete with miniature mum protestors, which finally elicited a direct response from him.

After the meeting, I raced home to celebrate my youngest daughter’s fourth birthday. Amid the cake and chaos, I felt waves of frustration that we hadn’t been able to achieve more.  

But like so many of my fellow parents, I feel determined. Carnegie-Brown and Lloyd’s need to know that we won’t go away. Warm words are not enough. It is concrete action to end fossil fuels that matters. The pressure will only continue to grow. We are working with mums in Australia and India, parents in Poland and organisers across Africa who feel the same way. This is about our children. It is about our shared home. It is about everything. 

Mothers Rise Up will be planning a Mary Poppins themed dance extravaganza outside Lloyd’s of London on Monday, 13 June. If you are interested in joining or supporting, please email: mothersriseupuk@gmail.com 

Maya Mailer @MayaMailer is co-founder of Mothers Rise Up, co-lead of Our Kids’ Climate and the former Head of Humantarian Campaigns and Policy at Oxfam. 

May 26, 2022
Duncan Green