Daily Management Review

Big Warning Delivered To Big Oil Companies On Climate Change By Shareholders And Court


Big Warning Delivered To Big Oil Companies On Climate Change By Shareholders And Court
While a Dutch court ruled that more needs to be done by the oil major Royal Dutch Shell to accelerate the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, top two oil companies of the United States were rebuked by shareholders for delaying efforts to address climate change.
"Today was a stark warning for Big Oil," said Bess Joffe, of the Church Commissioners for England, which manages the Church of England's investment fund, with executives "being held to account by investors and lawmakers."
At least two board seats were lost by Exxon Mobil to an activist hedge fund. At Chevron, shareholders gave the nod to further reduce the company’s emissions. At the same time the   Royal Dutch Shell's emissions targets were deemed to be insufficient by a court.
Oil and gas companies could be forced to rethink about strategies to quickly shift to other forms of energy because of support from investors to climate concerns. In a recent development, BP Plc has pledged to consult its shareholders about the climate targets it will set and the company could be the next in the test of the current groundswell among activist shareholders.
A Dutch court ordered Shell to slash its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. While calling the court ruling to be not the last word in the case, Shell said it would appeal the ruling.
"This ruling has negligible chance to survive appeals," said Per Magnus Nysveen, of energy consultancy Rystad Energy.
The management at the US energy giant Exxon were stunned after the company’s shareholders elected two change candidates for its board while also approving measures that call for the company to file annual reports on climate and grassroots lobbying efforts. A third seat on eth board of the company could yet be won by the activists as some votes have still not been counted and the full board is not yet known.
Exxon heard the desire of shareholders for advancing lower-carbon and cost-cutting efforts, Exxon heard shareholders' desire to advance lower-carbon and cost-cutting efforts after the meeting. "We are well positioned to respond,” he said.
A shareholder proposal to call on Chevron to cut emissions from the end-use of its fuels was supported by 61 per cent of the company’s shareholders. 48 per cent of the shareholders supported another resolution that called on the company to publish reports on the business impact of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
"The question for oil companies is when and how much" do they reduce oil and gas production in response to investor and social concerns, said Charles Elson, a professor of corporate governance at the University of Delaware.
He said that protests over the slow pace of change have been registered by investors but it is the prerogative of the corporate executives to assess whether and how to implement these resolutions that are non-binding.
Mark Van Baal, who heads a climate advocacy group that put forward resolutions that called on Chevron to cut emissions as well as at ConocoPhillips and Phillips66, said that a new sense of urgency for oil and gas companies to act on climate change was signalled by the shareholder voting.
Investors are saying: “we want you to act by decreasing emissions now, not in the distant future,” he said.