Zurich Insurance Group is accelerating its target for net zero emissions in operations to 2030 instead of 2050 with pre-purchase agreements for carbon removal certificates.

With pre-purchase agreements Zurich is funding projects in advance to start or scale up activities to remove carbon from the atmosphere, it announced.

The insurer has picked carbon removal suppliers InterEarth in Australia, Oregon Biochar Solutions in the US, and Restorative Ideas in Puerto Rico. It has funded in advance the suppliers to further develop, scale and commercialise their innovative technologies that are still at an early stage, it said.

InterEarth removes CO2 with the woody biomass burial method to store carbon captured within the biomass. Oregon Biochar Solutions produces biochar by thermal decomposition of organic material for carbon sequestration. Bio Restorative Ideas, on the other hand, wants to convert waste and bamboo into biochar – a high-carbon form of charcoal – in a former sugar cane factory in the southwest of Puerto Rico.

Zurich is also looking at technological solutions such as direct air capture and storage, it added.

The insurer is partnering with marketplace Puro.earth which helps match companies with legitimate carbon-removal firms assessed based on the Puro Standard, a process to issue science-based certificates for the carbon removed from the atmosphere, and the issued CO2 Removal Certificates (CORCs) into the Puro registry.

Companies buy CORCs from suppliers to neutralise emissions. The carbon removal certificate confirms that one metric tonne of CO2e has been removed from the atmosphere and stored for the long term using a proven removal method.

Zurich’s partnership with the Puro.earth certification scheme is up to date with emerging best practices for carbon sequestration in terms of calculations methodologies, auditing, ongoing project monitoring in emerging industries. However, it still lacks consistent frameworks applying globally, it said.

“To balance out our unavoidable residual emissions, we are supporting innovative carbon-removal solutions. The urgency of the situation means we need to be proactive and help scale up the carbon-removal industry, which is still in its infancy,” said Alison Martin, chief executive officer EMEA and bank distribution at Zurich.

The company has saved an estimated 1 million metric tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions since 2008.

Last year it set a target to cut gross emissions by 50%, including a 55% cut in direct and indirect emissions in operations, and a 50% reduction in indirect emissions in the value chain by 2025.

It also set a target of a 70% cut in gross emissions, including an 80% cut in direct and indirect emissions in operations, and a 65% reduction in indirect emissions in the value chain by 2029 on the path to net zero by 2050.

The latest digital edition of IPE’s magazine  in now available