Days Numbered for Fossil Fuels as Exxon Investors Demand Climate Change Info
First action of its kind since COP21 could set a precedent as the fossil fuel industry begins to grapple with the reality of warming world
ExxonMobil shareholders are demanding that the oil giant provide its investors with information about climate change, arguing that the global effort to reduce carbon emissions is likely to impact investors' "bottom line."
In a filing seen by Reuters and reported on Wednesday, four shareholders—including the New York state pension fund and the Church of England—are calling on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to force the company to include a climate change resolution in its annual shareholder proxy which "if approved, would require Exxon to report annually how it could be affected by climate change regulations."
The move comes amid a heightened legal battle between Exxon and its investors after investigative reporting revealed that the fossil fuel giant knew about the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change for decades, suppressed the evidence, and did nothing to curb its activities to reduce global warming.
Following those revelations, the New York attorney general launched an investigation into whether Exxon misled its investors about potential financial risks, given what the company knew about the dangers of continued fossil fuel usage.
According to Reuters, "Exxon told the SEC last month it intended to block a vote on the resolution at its annual meeting this May." However, the SEC could issue a ruling even before the company mails its investor materials out this spring.
The investor group, whose holdings are worth more than $1 billion, is specifically asking Exxon to examine how its "business would fare were warming to be restricted to 2 degrees Celsius," which is the agreed-upon goal of the landmark Paris climate accord. In a statement, Edward Mason, head of responsible investment for the Church of England's commissioners, said that he believed that the desire for such information "is widely shared in the institutional investor community."
The investor action is the first of its kind since the COP21 climate talks in December and could set a precedent as the fossil fuel industry begins to grapple with the imperative of changing its business model. In December, the growing fossil fuel divestment campaign announced that funds worth over $3.4 trillion had pulled their holdings from coal, oil, or gas companies.