Practising what you preach

Indigenous Climate Action rejects $150,000 award from Aviva

Group says it can’t accept cash from company invested in the tar sands
Photo: Aviva ad in London, UK (Photo: ho_hokus / Flickr CC)

An Indigenous-led climate organization announced today that it has rejected a $150,000 award from Aviva, due to the insurance giant’s extensive holdings in the oil and gas sector.

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“We cannot in good conscience accept an award from a corporation that is financially associated with fossil fuel energy projects that violate the rights of Indigenous peoples and contribute to global climate change,” said Eriel Deranger, executive director of Indigenous Climate Action, in a press release.

Indigenous Climate Action hopes that by rejecting this award it will push Aviva to get more serious about accelerating divestment from fossil fuel holdings.

Last week, Indigenous Climate Action learned it had been named as the recipient of Aviva Canada’s Community Legacy Award. It decided to reject the award money once it learned that Aviva plc, the parent company of Aviva Canada, had investments in companies active in the tar sands, including Teck Resource, Encana, Exxon, Imperial, Suncor, Chevron, Cenovus, Enbridge and Kinder Morgan.

The multinational Aviva is one of the world’s biggest insurance companies, and has been vocal in warning about the long-term dangers of climate change. "Climate change in particular represents the mother of all risks – to business and to society as a whole," warned the company’s CEO Mark Wilson in a 2016 letter to G20 governments urging them to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. "And that risk is magnified by the way in which fossil fuel subsidies distort the energy market. These subsidies are simply unsustainable."

Today’s announcement by Indigenous Climate Action asks Aviva to see the big picture on climate and to act accordingly.

The threat that climate change poses to the long-term viability of the insurance industry has long been a topic of discussion.

Indigenous Climate Action hopes that by rejecting this award it will push Aviva to get more serious about accelerating divestment from fossil fuel holdings.

"Aviva needs to ensure they are on the right side of history, and to do that they must divest from projects that violate our rights and threaten our survival," said Kanahus Manuel, a Secwepemc and Ktunaxa women helping lead efforts to oppose Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

A few years ago, Aviva launched a big budget global advertising campaign under the slogan "You are the big picture." Today’s announcement by Indigenous Climate Action asks Aviva to see the big picture on climate and to act accordingly.

The ball is now in the company’s court. Indigenous Climate Action notes in its press release that initial signs are positive. "Aviva Canada and Aviva plc responded to ICA’s rejection of the award with openness and a willingness to begin discussion on divestment and how to move away from corporate investments in the tar sands."

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