The International Union of Credit and Investment Insurers (Berne Union) has convened a working group to accelerate climate action in the export credit, trade finance and political risk insurance industries.

The Climate Working Group (CWG), made up of export credit agencies, multilateral investment insurers, development institutions, commercial banks and private insurance companies, is chaired by Leah Gilbert Morris, director of export credit agency (ECA) and international relations at Export Development Canada. The Berne Union secretariat, represented by associate director Paul Heaney and ECA committee manager Didem Bayseferogullari, is acting as CWG administrator.

Participating in the group are representatives of Agence Française de Développement (AFD), African Trade Insurance Agency, AXA XL, BpiFrance, DZ Bank, Investec, Miga, UK Export Finance and the United States International Development Finance Corporation.

The group will initially focus on three workstreams based around climate products, incentives and innovation; best practice in low-carbon transition; and policy coherence and alignment. Work will primarily involve sharing information, showcasing best practice and creating new tools and references.

The institutions and individuals contributing to this work include experts from a range of disciplines across climate, ESG and sustainability, risk underwriting, policy and international relations. This diversity will ensure that the group’s contributions “are relevant to the Berne Union membership and to the broader financial and insurance industry discourse on climate”, says Gilbert Morris.

“Significantly, this initiative involves not only Berne Union members, but also has the support of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) banks and development finance institution (DFI) community, via the participation of Chris Mitman and Ralph Lerch who chair the ICC Export Finance Sustainability Working Group, and AFD, which also runs the secretariat of the International Development Finance Club of DFIs and Finance in Common,” Heaney tells GTR.

The working group is being formed as the export credit sector comes under increasing pressure to align itself to environmental objectives.

Recent research by Oil Change International and Friends of the Earth US has found that between 2018 and 2020, international public finance institutions and development banks in G20 nations provided at least US$188bn in support towards fossil fuels abroad.

That figure is nearly triple the amount given in support for renewable energy, which the two groups warn “has stagnated since 2014”.

Earlier this month, European Union ECAs were given until the end of next year to set deadlines for ending support for the fossil fuel sector, while last year the OECD Arrangement agreed to nix export credit support for unabated coal, despite some members reportedly being wary of the move.

With this working group, the Berne Union is aiming to get its entire membership on the same page around sustainable development, by sharing experiences and approaches to the issue.

“Achieving transition towards a low-carbon, sustainable international economy on the timescale required to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement requires a dedicated and proactive effort from all industries and sections of society, globally,” says Michal Ron, Berne Union president. “A number of institutions within the export credit insurance industry have made significant progress towards this, and by leveraging their innovation, we can advance our collective goals more easily.”