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SEC says Exxon and Chevron must accept climate change shareholder proposals at annual meetings

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has ruled that oil giants, ExxonMobil and Chevron, need to include shareholder proposals at their AGMs requesting information on the impact on their businesses of the policies on reducing carbon emissions and responding to global warming. Both companies had sought permission to block a shareholder vote on the proposals at their annual meetings to be held next month.

At Exxon the shareholder proposal was co-filed by New York Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, as Trustee of New York State Common Retirement Fund, the Church Commissioners for England which manages investment funds for the Church of England, Zevin Asset Management, LLC on behalf of Ellen Sarkisian; The Regents of the University of California; the Vermont Pension Investment Committee; and The Brainerd Foundation. The SEC also said that Exxon could not omit three other separate climate change-related proposals submitted by shareholders.

Responding to the SEC’s decision DiNapoli said “The Securities and Exchange Commission’s determination upholds shareholders’ rights to ask for vital information. Investors need to know if ExxonMobil is taking necessary steps to prepare for a lower carbon future, particularly now in the wake of the Paris agreement. We look forward to presenting our proposal to fellow shareholders at ExxonMobil’s annual meeting.”

The SEC also said decided that two shareholder proposals – one submitted by Hermes Equity Ownership Services and UMC Benefit Boards – and another submitted by Arjuna Capital on behalf of Susan Inches and Robert Sessums – related to Chevron’s response to dealing with climate change should also be included on its proxy papers for the company’s annual meeting.

US environmental pressure group Ceres said, ” The SEC ruling is a huge victory for investors seeking more robust carbon disclosure from U.S. energy companies. The decision paves the way for an unprecedented collaboration between European and U.S. investors to build strong support for a common sense approach to planning for the energy transition that is underway.”

Ceres is coordinating a public declaration process for investors who hold shares in Exxon, Chevron, and seven other publicly-traded fossil fuel companies and is asking for investors to declare their support for all climate change proposals being put forward this year.

What do you think?