NEW YORK (Reuters) - A coalition of U.S. investors put companies including Exxon Mobil Corp and coal miner Massey Energy Co on a “Climate Watch” list on Wednesday, claiming the long-term competitiveness of the firms could be hurt by their lack of action on climate change.
“For a company in a major emitting sector ... to not be thinking about how they are going to address a regulated environment creates red flags for investors,” Mindy Lubber, the president of Ceres, a Boston-based coalition of investors and environmentalists, said in an interview.
Lubber said the companies have lagged in taking action on climate change even though U.S. President Barack Obama plans to regulate emissions of gases blamed for warming the planet.
“Companies that miss this trend will be setting themselves up to fail in the 21st century low-carbon economy,” she said.
Ceres, whose institutional investors associated with the Climate Watch report manage a total of $1.9 trillion in assets, said the companies lag behind their peers who have taken actions including moving into alternative energy markets like wind and solar power or assessing their climate change risks.
Ceres said Exxon Mobil Corp has been “unresponsive to investor requests for a decade,” on strategies on growing demand for diversified clean energy sources.
Exxon spokesman Chris Welberry said in a email, “We reject this criticism,” and that the company has led in energy efficiency investments to reduce emissions.
Ceres put Massey Energy on the list, saying it had resisted shareholder resolutions requesting the company develop and disclose a strategy for responding to climate change. The company did not immediately return a request for comment.
Investors at Ceres, which also directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a group of 75 institutional investors including the California State Teachers Retirement System, and financial firms focused on the business impacts of climate change, have filed 63 global warming resolutions with the nine companies on the climate list, and others.
The group also targeted companies investing in Canada’s tar sands, including Chevron Corp, which owns part of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project, and Canadian Natural Resources, one of the largest producers in oil sands.
Alberta’s oil sands rival Saudi Arabia’s conventional oil reserves in size, but environmentalists say mining and processing them releases huge amounts of greenhouse gases.
When Obama visits Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa on Thursday, energy will be a key topic in the talks. About 75 percent of Canada’s oil sands output is shipped to the U.S. market.
“Extraction of oil from oil sands is a risky proposition and will likely in the long term be a disaster for both investors and inhabitants of an increasingly warming planet,” said Margaret Weber, board chair of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which coordinates shareholder filings with Ceres.
Canadian Natural management could not be immediately reached and Chevron did not immediately return phone calls about the investments.
Additional reporting by Scott Haggett in Calgary; Editing by Christian Wiessner