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Church Commissioners co-file climate change resolution with Exxon

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The Church Commissioners for England, who run the Church of England’s £6.7bn (€8.7bn) endowment fund, have co-filed a shareholders’ resolution calling on ExxonMobil to disclose the resilience of its business model in the wake of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Church Commissioners said it was the first climate-related resolution they had filed with a US-based company.

Alongside the Church Commissioners, the resolution has been led by the New York State Common Retirement Fund – the third-largest public pension fund in the US – with co-filers also including the Vermont State Employees’ Retirement System, the University of California Retirement Plan and The Brainerd Foundation.

Altogether, the group of investors represents nearly $300bn (€275bn) in assets under management and more than $1bn in Exxon shares.

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The Paris UN Climate Conference concluded with world leaders committed to holding the rise in global temperatures well below 2˚C and to seek to restrict warming to 1.5˚C.

The shareholder proposal asks ExxonMobil to publish an assessment of how its portfolio would be affected by a 2˚C target through, and beyond, 2040.

Specifically, it said the assessment should include an analysis of the impacts of a 2˚C scenario on the company’s oil and gas reserves and resources, assuming a reduction in demand resulting from carbon restrictions.

The resolution will be voted on at ExxonMobil’s annual general meeting unless it is withdrawn because of action taken in response by the company, or the company seeks to have the resolution struck off by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Edward Mason, head of responsible investment for the Church Commissioners of England, said: “Climate change presents major challenges to corporate governance, sustainability and ultimately profitability at ExxonMobil. As responsible investors, we are committed to supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Mason added: “We need more transparency and reporting from ExxonMobil to be able to assess how they are responding to the risks and opportunities presented by the low-carbon transition.”  

Thomas DiNapoli, New York State comptroller and trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, said: “The unprecedented Paris agreement to rein in global warming may significantly affect Exxon’s operations.

“As shareholders, we want to know Exxon is doing what is needed to prepare for a future with lower carbon emissions.”

DiNapoli added: “The future success of the company, and its investors, requires Exxon to assess how it will perform as the world changes.” 

Last year, Shell and BP agreed to disclose how they would be impacted by efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions in response to similar shareholder proposals co-filed by the Church Commissioners and other investors and endorsed by the boards of both companies.

More recently, 10 global oil and gas companies, including Shell and BP, announced their support for lowering greenhouse gas emissions to help meet the 2˚C goal.

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