Climate change deniers challenged on D&O cover

Greenpeace has launched an attempt to use the insurance industry as leverage against organisations that hinder action on climate change.

The environmental lobby group joined with the WWF and the Centre for International Environmental Law to send 35 letters to major global insurance and reinsurance companies demanding to know whether they will indemnify company leaders who are sued for engaging in organised climate change denial.

Greenpeace asserts company directors will be exposed to increasing amounts of legal action on fraud and civil conspiracy charges if they support groups that deny climate change while internally acknowledging that their companies contribute to environmental harm.

Radford Lawyers Principal and NIBA Legal Counsel Mark Radford says insurers will begin to look at their policies that cover company directors but proving they are accountable for climate change is a difficult task.

“To get close to succeeding, you would have to, for example start by proving that they knew the data was wrong and that they were deliberately misleading people,” says Radford.

“The challenge is that the climate change issue is subject to conflicting views is difficult to prove one way or another.

“Obviously insurers will look at their policies very closely. A person engaged in conduct that was willful or deliberate is not likely to be covered by their policy,”

Massachusetts climate attorney Matthew Pawa told The Nation that the battle against climate change is following the same lines as the tobacco industry legal battle.

“We’re where the tobacco lawyers were before they started winning. It takes time and it takes persistence for the legal theories to evolve and mature,” he says.