Trans Mountain Pipeline’s Lead Insurer Zurich Drops Coverage
The lead insurer of Canada's Trans Mountain pipeline has dropped out.
A spokesperson for the Trans Mountain pipeline, which is planning a controversial expansion opposed by environmental groups and some Indigenous communities, said that Zurich would not renew its insurance coverage, Reuters reported Wednesday. Zurich's decision comes as environmental groups have put pressure on insurers to abandon the pipeline and other fossil fuel projects over their contribution to the climate crisis.
"This project is never getting built," advocacy group Stand.earth tweeted in response to the news.
Stand.earth is one of 32 environmental groups behind a petition urging Trans Mountain's 26 insurers to cease covering the project by Aug. 31, according to Burnaby Now. Zurich is the third insurer to do so in the last two months, Stand.earth said.
"If you needed proof that petitions, emails, and calls work – this is it," the group wrote on Facebook.
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would nearly triple the oil flowing along its 715-mile route from Alberta's tar sands to the coast of British Columbia from 300,000 barrels a day to 890,000. Its opponents have faced legal setbacks in recent months. In February, the Canadian Federal Court of Appeals ruled that the government had adequately consulted with First Nations groups when approving the project. Then, in July, the Supreme Court of Canada opted not to hear an appeal of that decision from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the Squamish Nation and the Coldwater Indian Band, according to Burnaby Now.
Indigenous groups oppose the pipeline expansion over concerns it will spill oil in their communities and erode their sovereignty.
"What is happening is about more than just a risky pipeline and tanker project. We see this as a major setback for reconciliation," Chief Leah George-Wilson of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation told CBC News following the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the appeal.
Pressuring the project's financial backers is another means of blocking it.
Trans Mountain's current insurance contract runs out in August of this year, according to Reuters. For now, the company says it still has enough insurers to cover its regular operations and the expansion.
"There remains adequate capacity in the market to meet Trans Mountain's insurance needs and our renewal," a pipeline spokesperson told Reuters in an email.
Zurich did not comment on its reasons for abandoning the project.
Other insurers who covered the project this year include Munich Re, Lloyd's of London, Liberty Mutual and Chubb. Munich Re said it would review the contract based on its new policies on covering oil sands. The others declined to comment.
One insurer who dropped out in July, Talanx, based its decision on climate concerns.
"As a matter of principle, Talanx no longer invests in companies that derive more than 25% of their revenue or generate more than 25% of their power from coal. In addition, oil sands have been added to the list of exclusion criteria for both investments and underwriting," the company wrote, as Burnaby Now reported.
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For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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