You know the times they are a-changing when Exxon Mobil starts sticking up for the environment.
For nearly forty years, Exxon Mobil engaged in an expensive disinformation campaign to bury evidence of climate change the company had a role in contributing to through its activity.
Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is now our nation’s sixty-ninth Secretary of State at a time we have a blatant climate denier in the White House. Clearly in the struggle between transnational fossil fuel corporations and the Earth, the former appears the victor. Right?
In a surprising turn of events Wednesday, Exxon Mobil shareholders cast a historic vote to compel the fossil fuel monolith to be more forthcoming about climate change’s impact on its business. This comes as President Donald Trump is reportedly prepared to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, the agreement nearly 200 countries signed to address global climate change.
At the company’s annual meeting at the Morton H. Meyerson symphony center in downtown Dallas, Texas, sixty-two percent of shareholders voted for the resolution, against Exxon’s management. This is up from last year’s thirty-eight percent vote.
The resolution, introduced by the New York State Common Retirement Fund, states:
“[The company] should analyze the impacts on Exxon Mobil’s oil and gas reserves and resources under a scenario in which reduction in demand results from carbon restrictions and related rules or commitments adopted by governments consistent with the globally agreed upon 2-degree [C] target…This reporting should assess the resilience of the company’s full portfolio of reserves and resources through 2040 and beyond, and address the financial risks associated with such a scenario.”
Leading the vote was Edward Mason, head of responsible investment at Church Commissioners for England. He said:
“Trump is acting contrary to Wall Street and the world’s largest investors. Climate change is a material financial risk and shareholders want to know how companies will manage the change to a low carbon economy.”
The vote forces Exxon Mobil to conduct an annual “stress test” to measure how climate change regulation and new technology affect oil assets.
“[The company’s board members] recognized the significance of the agreed international goals on climate change [in their other roles].”
Susan Avery, former president of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Exxon Mobil board member, said:
“Clearly climate science is telling us get off fossil fuels as much as possible.”
Former CEO of Xerox and Exxon board member Ursula Burns had previously signed the Obama administration’s climate pledge. Board member and Merck chairman/CEO Kenneth Frazier also favors action addressing climate change.
Chief executive Darren Woods said:
“We believe the risks of climate change are serious and warrant action, thoughtful action. As a company we are taking action in many ways.”
He also stated Exxon was doing enough to address the impact of climate change and regulation on its business, and that the board was against the proposal.
“The board believes the company has adequately assessed the future impact of policy developments.”
New York comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said:
“This is an unprecedented victory for investors in the fight to ensure a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy. Climate change is one of the greatest long-term risks we face in our portfolio and has direct impact on the core business of Exxon Mobil. The burden is now on Exxon Mobil to respond swiftly and demonstrate that it takes shareholder concerns about climate risk seriously.”
Featured image from YouTube video.