Last month American Insurance Group (AIG) closed its climate change program, which included keeping an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. The only thing left is the Global Marine and Energy division, but nothing that directly tackles climate change. The Global Marine and Energy division contains some of the “company’s most robust portfolio of renewable energy providers,” as a New York Times article put it.
AIG has not released an official statement about closing the climate change program, so the reasons why it closed it are only speculation. However, according to Treehugger, “It’s assumed that it was a budgetary decision–clean energy is deemed too risky, too low on reward right now.”
“Some people were concerned that if you took an advocacy position [on climate change], that might annoy — that’s a good word — clients,” said Joseph Boren, the former CEO of AIG Environmental.
Alice LeBlanc, AIG’s only director of climate change, speculated on what the company will say about closing the program. “They’re going to have to say, ‘We no longer do our greenhouse gas inventory, we no longer have our Be Green program. We no longer lobby for anything.” LeBlanc said.
Richard Thomas, former senior vice president of AIG, said, “They’re not actively pursuing climate change issues, because it’s just not on the board as a priority within the narrow set of priorities for survival.”
AIG spokesperson, Joe Norton said the company is still “committed to addressing the issues of climate change.” He added, “This is still a very important initiative for us and there has been no change to the eco-friendly insurance products and (services) that we create and deliver to commercial customers.”
Thomas is worried that AIG’s decision about its climate change program will “retard the development of some of the financial instruments to address some of the issues in climate change.” He pointed out that “AIG was a leader in that area, and now because of so much of what AIG did is in disrepute on the financial product side, I think that sends a chill through everyone.”
AIG has received about $180 billion from the government to keep it afloat. Treehugger made the following observation about AIG closing its climate change program:
It’s kind of ironic, really–the company that had a hand in creating a global recession by making unsustainable investments was on the brink of making some of the most important, most sustainable investments of all.
In June, AIG also closed its Washington, D.C. lobbying office. AIG spent almost $10 million on lobbying in 2008. A spokesperson for, Christina Pretto, said, “Given the restructuring, we’re closing our Washington office.” Despite the bailout money AIG received, it spent $1.25 million on the Washington, D.C. office during the first three months of this year.