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Pension fund leader presses Exxon for more climate details

BOSTON/HOUSTON (Reuters) - A top U.S. pension fund manager said Tuesday it was pressing Exxon Mobil Corp for more details about its response to climate change, signaling that a key critic who elicited a report from the oil major last year remains unsatisfied with its answers ahead of the annual meeting this spring.

The questions came from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who last year led a campaign that convinced a majority of Exxon shareholders to call on the company to detail risks it could face from rising global temperatures.

Exxon produced a report in February outlining how global oil demand could drop sharply by 2040, but critics said the report fell short on areas like how climate policies could affect company finances.

Exxon has tried to placate investors by other means. At its annual investor day last month in New York, for instance, Exxon for the first time dedicated more than two hours to renewable technology investments and climate change.

In a letter to Exxon, shown to Reuters, DiNapoli’s co-director of corporate governance Patrick Doherty called on Exxon to cut greenhouse gas emissions and sought details such as how its projections for fuel demand compare to national policy goals, or if Exxon considers health-based emissions standards in projections for fuel demand.

In the letter Doherty wrote that his office needs answers for a “full understanding of Exxon Mobil’s planning and preparation to operate in a carbon constrained economy and in a changing climate.”

Asked about DiNapoli’s letter, Exxon spokesman Scott Silvestri said via e-mail that “We value input from all of our shareholders.”

Separately, DiNapoli’s office said on Tuesday it asked other companies including energy firms and utilities to reduce emissions and to address climate change risks. But staff withdrew resolutions at several U.S. energy firms after they agreed to provide climate risk details including at DTE Energy Co and at Dominion Energy Inc.

Exxon’s annual proxy filing, likely to be released this month, will include ballot items for investors ahead of the company’s shareholder meeting set for May 30 in Dallas.

A New York State fund overseen by DiNapoli, which has about 11.5 million shares of Exxon, withdrew a climate resolution for this year’s proxy ahead of Exxon’s February report.

In theory investors left unhappy by the time of Exxon’s meeting could vote against individual company directors, though so far major investors who backed DiNapoli’s proposal last year have declined to discuss their views.

Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston and Ernest Scheyder in Houston; Editing by David Gregorio