Exxon Mobil clashes with shareholders over climate question

New York State and the Church of England are urging the US regulator to allow a vote on oil major’s exposure to a low carbon shift

(Flickr/Mike Mozart)

(Flickr/Mike Mozart)

By Megan Darby

New York State and the Church of England have stepped up their fight with ExxonMobil over its attempt to silence climate change questions.

The US oil major has asked regulator the Securities and Exchange Commission to block a shareholder resolution on climate risk at its next annual meeting this spring.

But as long term investors, the New York comptroller and Church Commissioners have today appealed for the vote to go ahead.

At issue is the clash between Exxon’s bullish projections of oil demand and international agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“Exxon risks becoming an outlier among its peers who have publicly supported reining in climate change,” said NYS’s Thomas DiNapoli.

“As investors, we need to know how Exxon’s bottom line will be impacted by the global effort to reduce emissions and what the company plans to do about it.”

Report: Paris climate pact spells slow death for fossil fuels

Last December, 195 governments agreed to hold global warming “well below 2C”. That goal implies an early peak in fossil fuel burning globally, followed by a rapid phaseout.

Exxon insists that all its hydrocarbon ventures will be needed, dismissing politicians’ commitment to the 2C goal.

Edward Mason, head of responsible investment for the Church Commissioners, said: “We are extremely disappointed that even after the Paris climate change agreement ExxonMobil has contested the relevance of the resolution we have co-filed.

“We believe that our desire to see reporting on how ExxonMobil’s business would fare were warming to be restricted to 2C is widely shared in the institutional investor community. It is a perfectly reasonable ask. Without this information investors cannot properly assess the resilience of ExxonMobil’s business strategy.”

Last year, BP and Shell accepted similar resolutions, agreeing to analyse how their business model would fare under strict climate regulations.

In its latest energy outlook, BP included a new “faster low carbon transition” scenario, which goes half way to the rate of emissions cuts needed for 2C.

A group of UK-based activist shareholders is turning its attention to mining giants Anglo American, Glencore and Rio Tinto, urging them to shift away from polluting coal.

Read more on: Carbon bubble | Fossil Fuels