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    Oil majors forced to account to shareholders on climate change


    May 12, 2022 - CE Noticias Financieras

     

      Investor pressure, NGO impatience and legal controversy: the European oil giants will have to report on their climate strategy at their shareholders' meetings in May.

      This year, five European oil majors, TotalEnergies (May 25), the Anglo-Dutch Shell (May 24), the Spanish Repsol (May 6), the British BP (May 12) and the Norwegian Equinor (May 11) decided to submit their climate policy spontaneously to a consultative vote of their general assembly.

      "It will probably be tense," said Loic Dessaint, head of governance at Proxinvest. For the moment, this consulting agency has not issued any positive recommendations.

      Some investors and NGOs believe that efforts have been insufficient and slow in a context of worsening climate change impacts, with an energy situation affected by the war in Ukraine.

      Their main demand concerns indirect emissions, known as "scope 3", i.e. targets covering the end use of fossil fuels produced by oil companies, since this is where the vast majority of these companies' emissions are hidden.

      For them, the AGMs are an opportunity to present a much bigger united response than in 2021.

      According to Reclaim Finance, which assesses the impact of financial actors on the climate, the challenge this AGM season is to "put the curb on oil and gas expansion at the center of the debates."

      - "Incomplete" -

      The climate plans presented by the oil industry are "incomplete" to conform to a global warming target limited to +1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial period, and "their approval rate is expected to drop or we are even expected to get some plans rejected by a majority of shareholders" at the assemblies, Guillaume Pottier, an activist with Reclaim Finance, told AFP.

      The same is true of investor coalition Climate Action 100+ and the 8,500-member Follow This shareholder collective, which submitted a climate resolution to Shell, BP and Equinor calling for targets consistent with the Paris Agreement, as well as greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the short, medium and long term.

      The oil companies called for a vote against this external resolution, but Follow This says it is "confident of getting better results than the 30% favorable at Shell and 21% at BP achieved last year."

      On the eve of their assemblies in London, where both giants are listed, calls for a special tax on large companies have become more insistent.

      - TotalEnergies fiasco

      For its part, TotalEnergies generated some frustration a few days before its meeting, after unilaterally deciding to scrap a resolution that a group of 11 investors wanted to put to a vote.

      Praised for its commitment to submit its climate strategy annually to an advisory vote at the general meeting and its efforts to dialogue with investors, TotalEnergies refused to put it on the agenda for its meeting, noting that the proposal "would actually amount to framing the strategy" of the group, a legal competence vested in the board of directors.

      "Part of the protest would probably come from shareholders who are a bit burned" by this "power grab" at the time of the vote on the group's climate plan, Dessaint anticipated.

      The other petitioners of the text called on the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF) to put the resolution back on the agenda of the TotalEnergies meeting, although the outcome of the action is not yet known.

      The Responsible Investment Forum (RIF) asked the AMF to publish its opinion on the issue.

      On the investors' side, the Dutch MN Services, leader of the resolution, has already communicated to the 700 members of Climate Action 100+ its opposition to TotalEnergies' climate plan.

      Thirteen NGOs, including Reclaim Finance, called in a public letter on Monday for the group's shareholders to vote against and sanction its hydrocarbon expansion strategy, and opposed the re-election of three directors.

      pan/jbo/jmi/mas/en

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