Academics back Exxon and Chevron climate openness vote

Shareholders in ExxonMobil and Chevron are being urged by more than 1,000 leading academics to vote in favour of resolutions demanding more openness on climate change issues later this month.

Leading figures from some of the world’s best universities — including Oxford, Cambridge, Yale and Harvard — have signed a letter to the oil groups’ largest investors seeking their backing for new proposals at upcoming annual meetings.

These include resolutions forcing the oil groups to disclose the impact of government policies to limit the global temperature rise to less than 2C. Nearly 200 countries at the Paris climate talks last year agreed to limit the increase in the global average temperature to “well below” 2C.

BP, Shell and Statoil have already agreed to similar disclosures, following pressure from their shareholders.

Other resolutions at the Exxon and Chevron meetings call on the oil groups to set greenhouse gas reduction goals and reveal their lobbying activities on climate change policies.

Both US companies have called on their shareholders to vote against the resolutions. But on Thursday the academics plan to send a letter to Exxon and Chevron’s 20 largest investors — including Vanguard, BlackRock and the Norwegian oil fund, the biggest sovereign wealth fund in the world — calling for their support.

“This is a chance to change the trajectory of two of the largest fossil fuel companies in the world,” said Lily Tomson from Positive Investment, the international coalition of students, academics and university staff that is behind the letter to Exxon and Chevron shareholders. It claims this is the first time so many academics have come together to push investors to focus on climate change.

Academics who have signed the letter in a personal capacity include Lord Martin Rees of the University of Cambridge, Professor Bob Eccles from the Harvard Business School and Dr Gernot Wagner of the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

Their intervention comes as US companies face a record number of shareholder votes on climate change issues at annual meetings this year.

Helen Wildsmith, stewardship director for climate change at CCLA Investment Management, which manages £6bn on behalf of charities, religious organisations and the public sector, said: “The fact that 1,000 professors have backed this campaign will be noticed by asset managers and asset owners globally.”

Amundi, Europe’s largest asset manager, BNP Paribas Investment Partners, the French fund house, and Calpers, the US’s largest public pension fund, have already indicated they will back the resolution for greater disclosure around the impact of climate change at Exxon and Chevron.

Vanguard declined to comment on whether it would vote in favour of the resolution. BlackRock said it does not publicly disclose how it votes in advance.

Norway’s Government Pension Fund, with $877bn under management, is supporting the resolution for disclosure of the impact of climate change at Exxon, taking the total assets managed by the resolution’s supporters to more than $8tn.

ISS and Glass Lewis, two of world’s two leading proxy advisers, which advise institutional investors on how to vote at AGMs, are also backing the resolution at Exxon.

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