Source: The Climate Crisis Newsletter
Bill McKibben in the New Yorker:
In what may be the most cataclysmic day so far for the traditional fossil-fuel industry, a remarkable set of shareholder votes and court rulings have scrambled the future of three of the world’s largest oil companies.
On Wednesday, a court in the Netherlands ordered Royal Dutch Shell to dramatically cut its emissions over the next decade—a mandate it can likely meet only by dramatically changing its business model. A few hours later, sixty-one per cent of shareholders at Chevron voted, over management objections, to demand that the company cut so-called Scope 3 emissions, which include emissions caused by its customers burning its products. Oil companies are willing to address the emissions that come from their operations, but, as Reuters pointed out, the support for the cuts “shows growing investor frustration with companies, which they believe are not doing enough to tackle climate change.” The most powerful proof of such frustration came shortly afterward, as ExxonMobil officials announced that shareholders had (over the company’s strenuous opposition) elected two dissident candidates to the company’s board, both of whom pledge to push for climate action.
Photograph by Erik McGregor / Sipa / Alamy
The action at ExxonMobil’s shareholder meeting was fascinating: the company, which regularly used to make the list of most-admired companies, had been pulling out all stops to defeat the slate of dissident candidates, which was put forward by Engine No. 1, a tiny activist fund based in San Francisco that owns just 0.02 per cent of the company’s stock, but has insisted that Exxon needs a better answer to the question of how to meet the climate challenge. Exxon has simply insisted on doubling down: its current plan actually calls for increasing oil and gas production in Guyana and the Permian Basin this decade, even though the International Energy Agency last week called for an end to new development of fossil fuels. Observers at the meeting described a long adjournment mid-meeting, and meandering answers to questions from the floor, perhaps as an effort to buy time to persuade more shareholders to go the company’s way. But the effort failed. Notably, efforts by activists to push big investors appear to have paid off: according to sources, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, backed three of the dissident candidates for the Exxon board.