Exxon forced into climate resolution by shareholders


After half a century of knowing about, but actively denying the reality of global warming, investors have warned Exxon to “change or die.” The oil giant was forced into its first-ever climate resolution by shareholders yesterday during its annual general meeting, which could open the door to climate activists being appointed to its board. Exxon, and other fossil fuel companies like Chevron and BP, are among the least trusted businesses in the world, and they remain fixated on extracting more unburnable oil during a period of unprecedented volatility in the the global oil market. While Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson still defends fossil fuels as necessary “for our very survival,” and shareholders reject resolutions to limit warming to 2DegC, the company continues to keep its head in the sand when it comes to the USD$10 trillion of assets its investors oversee.



Key Points

  • Exxon’s climate denialism  undermines  climate action at every level. Through campaign contributions and the funding of super PACs, the fossil fuel industry has made necessary and urgent climate action politically untenable in the United States, and ExxonMobil has been a leading player. In turn, this influence has limited the US negotiating position on international climate matters.
  • Investors are concerned about their bottom line, and the fossil fuel industry is playing catch up. Between June 2014 and December 2015, the drop in oil price cost investors in the S&P 500 $700 billion. Companies like Exxon owe it to their shareholders to offer business solutions that move away from fossil fuels in the long run, especially in an already volatile oil market.  
  • Exxon may have inched closer towards reality, but it isn’t quite there yet. When faced with 11 shareholder resolutions on climate change, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson continued to defend fossil fuels, arguing that there was “no scientific basis” for limiting warming to 2DegC. While shareholders agreed to introduce a significant resolution that could open up board seats for climate activists, by rejecting science, Exxon has shown it is still out of touch with international consensus.


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Key Quotes

  • “What would the world be like today if Exxon executives had listened to my father? If Exxon had led the industry in confronting climate change instead of funding public relations campaigns to disprove its existence? Perhaps sea levels would not be rising as quickly. Perhaps the fires burning across Alberta would not be as destructive. Perhaps we would already be transitioning to cleaner fuels and energy sources.” – Claudia Black-Kalinsky, daughter of former Exxon scientist
  • “The recommendation by Exxon’s board to outright reject every single climate resolution from shareholders sends an incontestable signal to investors: it’s due time to divest from Exxon’s deception. Exxon knew everything there was to know about climate change decades ago and chose to sow doubt instead of warning the rest of us. Today’s results reaffirm that Exxon will never turn from its deceptive and destructive ways.” – May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org
  • “Today’s meeting clearly shows that Exxon continues to deny its role in our climate crisis even amidst strong pressure from its shareholders, and will do everything it can to continue their disastrous status quo that imperils our climate and will ultimately destroy their own business.” – David Turnbull, Campaigns Director for Oil Change International
  • “The reality is there is no alternative energy source known on the planet or available to us today to replace the pervasiveness of fossil fuels in our global economy, in our very quality of life, in our very survival… It is a balance event between future climatic events that could be catastrophic but are unknown and the more immediate needs of humanity.” – Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil CEO
  • “Today we’ve seen evidence of good strategic analysis of the low-carbon transition by both Total and Shell’s boards at their AGMs, following intensive engagement by Aiming for A members and other investors in recent years. Tomorrow institutional investors have an important opportunity to signal to Exxon and Chevron that portfolio resilience is key to maintaining shareholder value following the Paris Agreement.” – Helen Wildsmith, Stewardship Director at charity specialist CCLA, and the founder of Aiming for A

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