Oil giants face backlash over climate storm

Pressure on oil firms ramps up as Norway’s sovereign wealth fund throws its weight behind climate activists against Exxon Mobil and Chevron

Pressure on the world’s largest oil firms ramped up as Norway’s titanic sovereign wealth fund threw its weight behind climate activists against US oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

The £1.1trillion fund, the largest of its type in the world, will support proposals by shareholders in both firms at their annual general meetings (AGMs) on Wednesday to introduce targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The move came as French fossil fuel giant Total’s AGM descend into chaos yesterday when police were forced to intervene to stop protesters from disrupting it.

Officers clashed with activists outside the venue in Paris, spraying activists with tear gas and dragging others away so investors could attend.

The furore continued inside, when 30.4 per cent of voting shareholders backed a motion calling for Total to speed up cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions. 

Under pressure: Norway's sovereign wealth fund has thrown its weight behind climate activists against US oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron

Under pressure: Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has thrown its weight behind climate activists against US oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron

It followed a tumultuous meeting in London this week for rival Shell where protesters heckled the board.

Around 20 per cent of voting investors also opposed its energy transition strategy while another 20 per cent supported a motion to make environmental targets more ambitious.

Last month saw similar scenes at the annual meeting of fellow oil major BP which was disrupted by protesters after the firm scaled back commitments to cut oil and gas production and reduce its emission reduction targets.

With the upcoming AGMs for Exxon and Chevron set to be mobbed by climate protesters, Carine Smith Ihenacho, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund’s chief corporate governance officer, said it did not think the two US giants were ‘ambitious enough’ about cutting emissions. The fund is the sixth-largest investor in Exxon with a stake of nearly 1.2 per cent.

It controls 0.9 per cent of Chevron, making it the tenth-biggest shareholder but has faced allegations of hypocrisy for pushing oil companies to adopt stricter climate change targets while raking in vast sums from Norway’s fossil fuel reserves.

Some activists have questioned why it supports climate change proposals for Exxon and Chevron and has not backed similar resolutions tabled at BP, Shell and Total.

‘This jeopardises their credibility as stewards of the global economy,’ said Mark van Baal, founder of shareholder climate activist group Follow This. They are saying to Shell, BP and Total: you don’t have to reduce emissions this decade. We expect them to correct this oversight next year.’

  • Miner Glencore suffered a rebellion in a debate over its thermal coal business. At its annual meeting, just over 30 per cent of voting investors opposed its climate report.

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