By Noor Zainab Hussain
Sept 17 (Reuters) - A group of about 60 American businesses on Thursday urged their insurers to stop providing coverage to and investing in fossil fuel producers.
In a letter, companies including outdoor-gear producer Patagonia and ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry's, a unit of Unilever ULVR.L, called on U.S. insurers to drop ties to coal, oil and gas.
"The insurance industry is underwriting and investing in fossil fuels which we now know are the key drivers of climate change," they said.
"As insurance customers, we are therefore expressing our desire for insurance coverage in the U.S. market that isn't tied to supporting fossil fuels and actively supports renewable energy."
U.S. insurers reported almost $7 trillion in cash and invested assets, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Insurers highlighted in the letter include American International Group Inc AIG.N, Liberty Mutual LBRTML.UL, Chubb Ltd CB.BN, Axis Capital and Hartford Financial Services HIG.N.
According to the letter, Chubb, Axis Capital, The Hartford, and Liberty Mutual have policies to scale back or end underwriting of fossil fuels, but still continue to insure such projects.
A spokesman for The Hartford said the company announced its coal exit policy in December.
AIG said on its website it does not publicly comment on underwriting decisions related to specific projects.
In recent years, environmental activists have pressured banks to drop financing for fossil-fuel companies.
Lobby groups such as Unfriend Coal have put pressure on insurers to stop underwriting carbon-intensive fuels like coal and oil sands.
Insurers can accelerate a transition to a low-carbon economy because having insurance is typically a condition for loans and investment.
The first 10 insurers to exit the coal sector were European, but some U.S. and Australian peers have also adopted coal exit policies, Unfriend Coal said.
Swiss Re AG SRENH.S and Zurich Insurance ZURN.S are the leaders in ending coal insurance, Unfriend Coal said.
(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Aditya Soni)
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