Investors want to know more from Exxon and others about climate change plans | KEYE Austin - Green Right Now Austin News, Weather, Traffic KEYE-TV Austin - HOME
Mar 052010

From Green Right Now Reports

As climate change accelerates, leading investment groups are asking to hear more from corporations about their plans to adapt and survive in a changing world.

U.S. investors – pension funds, labor, religious and other institutional investors – filed a record number of climate change resolutions in 2009.

CeresThe 95 shareholder resolutions were filed with 82 U.S. and Canadian companies, some of which face special challenges from climate change, according to a news release by Ceres, a coalition of investors, environmental and social responsibility groups.

The number of resolutions represent a 40 percent increase over 2009 and were likely encouraged by recent guidance from the Securities and Exchange Commission on climate disclosure.

“As the SEC recently affirmed with its disclosure guidance, climate change presents clear material risks and opportunities for U.S. businesses – and investors have a right to know which companies are well prepared and which are not,” said Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres, which helps coordinate the shareholder filings.

Companies targeted by the resolutions include oil and gas corporations such as ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, as well as the nation’s largest coal companies, electric utilities, homebuilders, “big box” retailers, financial institutions “and other businesses that investors believe are not adequately disclosing and managing potential climate-related business impacts,” according to Ceres.

Tar sands open mining, Alberta (Photo: U.S. Dept. of Interior.)

Tar sands open mining, Alberta (Photo: U.S. Dept. of Interior.)

Investors want to know about the risks companies are taking with certain business practices that could increase a company’s carbon footprint and work against sustainability.

Resolutions, for example, targeted ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips over the companies’ plans to spend billions to extract fossil fuels from Canada oil sands deposits. The  shareholders want more information about the environmental impacts of this controversial practice, which faces legal challenges in both Canada and the U.S. They also asked for the companies’ assessments of potential risks to their reputation over oil sands extraction, a more complex, costly way to extract oil for petroleum.

Other resolutions asked big coal and electric utilities about their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as the U.S. readies for possible regulation of GHGs.

“We want our companies to closely look at the impact climate change legislation and regulation have on them, to realistically assess those risks, and to consider the indirect consequences of climate change-driven regulation and business trends on their activities,” said Jack Ehnes, CEO of CalSTRS, the California teachers’ retirement pension fund, which manages $131 billion dollars in assets.

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, whose office oversees the state’s $129.4 billion pension fund and filed resolutions with CONSOL Energy Inc. and engineering firm KBR, also spoke out on behalf of more transparency.

“Investors cannot remain silent to the threats of global climate change, which has the potential to negatively impact businesses and their long-term profitability. The New York State Common Retirement Fund wants the companies it invests in to more clearly assess and better manage the far-reaching risks of climate change,” DiNapoli said.