CalPERS plans 17 climate change proxy efforts this year

(Reuters) - The California Public Employees’ Retirement System plans to be active in 17 proxy efforts on climate change directed at energy companies this proxy season, the pension fund’s Chief Investment Officer Ted Eliopoulos said on Monday.

CalPERS’ effort will build on its actions over the past year, when it was active in 12 proxy efforts, to increase the percentage of votes in favor of climate change strategy disclosures.

Eliopoulos said during an investment committee board meeting that CalPERS would ask energy companies over the next three months for “disclosure of their climate change strategy, among other topics.”

In order to “drive the votes at those companies, we are building on our networks of peer engagement,” said Eliopoulos.

The nation’s largest public pension fund joined New York City pension chiefs last year to urge Exxon Mobil shareholders to back a measure that would force the company to detail how its business would be impacted as governments move to tackle climate change.

CalPERS and New York City vowed to engage other shareholders to push the world’s largest publicly traded oil company to say more about how its revenues, reserves and operations could be hurt by the 2015 Paris Agreement backed by 195 countries to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

Following the proxy access proposal, Exxon appointed its first climate scientist to its board, Dr. Susan Avery, the former head of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and a former professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“This is an extremely encouraging response in recognition that Exxon needs to bolster its capacity on climate change,” Eliopoulos said on Monday.

Reporting by Robin Respaut; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli