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Exxon avoids climate change shareholder revolt led by Church Commissioners

03 June 2016


Dusk: stacks and burn-off from an Exxon Mobil refinery in St Bernard, Louisiana, in February 2015 

Dusk: stacks and burn-off from an Exxon Mobil refinery in St Bernard, Louisiana, in February 2015 

A SHAREHOLDER action at the energy corporation ExxonMobil, led by the Church Commissioners, has failed to force the company to open up about how the battle against climate change will affect its business.

At the firm’s annual meeting in Dallas, Texas, last week, 38 per cent of shareholders voted for a reso­lu-tion, proposed by the Commis­sion­ers and New York’s state comp­troller, that would have forced Exxon­­Mobil to report on how efforts to limit global temperature increases to 2°C might hit its profits and business model.

The board of the corporation, the world’s largest publicly traded energy company, opposed the reso­lu­tion and even tried to get stock- market regulators to prevent its being presented at the meeting.

The resolution followed two simi­lar, but successful, resolutions filed by the Commissioners at the annual meetings of Shell and BP last year (News, 16 April 2015).

Despite failing to convince enough investors to vote in favour, the head of responsible investment at the Church Commissioners, Edward Mason, said that he was delighted by the result.

"This is a significant show of strength on climate disclosure at Exxon by shareholders. Considering the scale of this vote, we urge Exxon to sit down urgently with its invest­ors to agree the reporting it will provide on the risk that climate change policy poses to its business.

"Following the Paris Agreement the time for climate risk reporting has well and truly arrived and the investor call for it is clear. It will not go away."

A similar resolution filed at Chev­ron’s annual meeting last week secured the backing of 41 per cent of shareholders.

During the meeting in Dallas, ExxonMobil’s chairman and chief executive, Rex Tillerson, said that cutting off oil production was "not acceptable to humanity". He insisted that his company was not blind to the dangers of climate change, having invested nearly $US7 billion in green technologies.

"Until we have those [alterna­tives], just saying ‘turn the taps off’ is not acceptable to human­ity," he said. "The world is going to have to continue using fossils fuels, whether they like it or not." ExxonMobil expect­­ed that oil and gas would still provide 60 per cent of the world’s energy by 2040, he said.

Earlier this month, climate-change resolutions led by church investors were also filed at the AGMs of some of the world’s largest mining companies. Shareholders at Glencore, Anglo American, and Rio Tinto backed resolutions that called for greater disclosure of the risks posed to them by climate change.

The resolutions, led by the "Aiming for A" coalition of church and ethical investors, also included calls to reduce operational emis­sions, support research into green energy development, and to ensure that the companies are well-placed to switch to a low-carbon future.

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