[Anglican Communion News Service] Buoyed by the success of similar actions against British oil companies BP and Shell, the Church Commissioners for England have proposed a shareholders’ motion calling on the U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil to “disclose the resilience of its business model in the wake of the Paris Agreement on climate change.” If passed at the company’s Annual Meeting of Shareholders, the motion will force the oil company to be more transparent on its efforts to shift to a low-carbon economy.
The Church Commissioners is a body established by an Act of Parliament and is responsible for managing its £6.7 billion (approximately $9.5 billion) of investments in equities, real estate and alternative investment strategies to help fund the work of the Church of England. In addition to supporting poorer dioceses with ministry costs, the Commissioners use the return on its investments to support mission activities, pay for bishops’ ministry and some of the costs of cathedrals. They are also responsible for paying clergy pensions for service prior to 1998.
In recent years, as part of its ethical investment strategy, the Church Commissioners have taken an increasingly hands-on approach to engagement with the companies that it invests in.
In its latest shareholder action, the Church Commissioners have joined forces with a number of other large shareholders in ExxonMobil to propose the resolution. The group of investors include the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the Vermont State Employees’ Retirement System, the University of California Retirement Plan and The Brainerd Foundation. Together, the group represents nearly $300 billion US (approximately £211 Billion GBP) in assets under management and more than $1 billion US (approximately £703 million GBP) in Exxon shares.
“The unprecedented Paris agreement to rein in global warming may significantly affect Exxon’s operations,” New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, said. “As shareholders, we want to know that Exxon is doing what is needed to prepare for a future with lower carbon emissions. The future success of the company, and its investors, requires Exxon to assess how it will perform as the world changes.”
Edward Mason, the Church Commissioners’ head of responsible investment, said: “Climate change presents major challenges to corporate governance, sustainability and ultimately profitability at ExxonMobil. As responsible investors we are committed to supporting the transition to a low carbon economy. We need more transparency and reporting from ExxonMobil to be able to assess how they are responding to the risks and opportunities presented by the low carbon transition.”
The Paris UN Climate Conference concluded with world leaders committed to holding the rise in global temperatures well below two degrees Celsius and to seek to restrict warming to 1.5 degrees.
The joint shareholder proposal asks ExxonMobil to publish an assessment of how its portfolio would be affected by a two-degree target through, and beyond, 2040. Specifically, the assessment should include an analysis of the impacts of a two-degree scenario on the company’s oil and gas reserves and resources assuming a reduction in demand resulting from carbon restrictions.
Exxon’s peers, Shell and BP, have already agreed to disclose how they will be impacted by efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions in response to similar shareholder proposals co-filed in 2015 by the Church of England and other investors and endorsed by the boards of both companies. More recently, 10 global oil and gas companies, including Shell and BP, announced their support for lowering GHG emissions to help meet the two-degree goal.