ExxonMobil Latest Oil & Gas Firm to Face the Music on Climate Change

ExxonMobil Latest Oil & Gas Firm to Face the Music on Climate Change

Several leading U.S. and European institutional investors, representing nearly $400 billion in invested assets, have announced their support for new shareholder resolutions requesting greater analysis and disclosure from ExxonMobil Corp. about its policies and strategies for managing the significant financial risks posed by global climate change. The resolutions will be voted on at the company's May 25 annual meeting.

The shareholders, who collectively own more than $3.5 billion of ExxonMobil stock, include state treasurers and pension fund leaders from California, Connecticut, London and North Carolina.

Citing the far-reaching impacts that climate change will have on their investments and the world economy, the investors will be supporting two resolutions calling for:
  • Cost projections, compliance timelines and other strategies for complying with the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that requires greenhouse gas reductions in dozens of countries where ExxonMobil does business. (This resolution won the support last Friday from Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), an influential adviser to institutional investors.)

  • An explanation of the differences between the company's stated position on climate change and those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international body of experts that has concluded that human activity is contributing to climate change.
Some, but not all of the investors are also supporting a third climate-related resolution calling for more energy and oil industry expertise among independent member of the company's board of directors. The resolution is designed to improve the board's effectiveness in exploring various energy alternatives for meeting the changing global energy economy.

The resolutions come as many of ExxonMobil's leading domestic and foreign competitors are acknowledging the impact of global warming on their bottom lines and moving more aggressively to assess and disclose their potential financial exposure and improve their strategic positioning, especially as Kyoto greenhouse gas reduction requirements are already taking effect. About 37 percent of Exxon's annual revenues in 2003 came from just five countries (Canada, Japan, UK, Germany, Italy) that are Kyoto participants.

"ExxonMobil shareholders need to know how the company they own is responding to challenges that will impact its bottom line and our environment," said Phil Angelides, California state treasurer and a board member of the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), the nation's largest and third largest public pension funds with about $311 billion of assets.

Peter Scales, chief executive of the London Pensions Fund Authority, said: "Investors globally recognize the uncertain environment in which the companies we invest in operate, but we cannot afford to ignore both risks and the opportunities arising from climate change that impact the value of our investments. ExxonMobil needs to join its peers in addressing these issues positively if they are to retain shareholder support."

In just the past few months, Anadarko Petroleum, Apache, ChevronTexaco and several other leading U.S. oil and gas companies have agreed to a wide range of actions to reduce their climate risk exposure, including: measuring and disclosing greenhouse gas emissions and setting reduction targets; increasing investments in low- and no-carbon energy technologies, integrating climate risk and carbon costs into capital allocation decision making; and assigning boards direct responsibility to oversee climate change corporate strategies. The actions come in the wake of record-high voting support last year for shareholder resolutions seeking more climate risk disclosure from oil and gas companies.