February 24, 2019 / 10:33 PM / 6 months ago

Exxon asks U.S. regulator to block climate-change resolution: investors

(Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp is trying to block an investor proposal that calls on the world’s largest publicly traded oil company to set targets for lowering its greenhouse gas emissions, two of the investor groups involved said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: An airplane comes in for a landing above an Exxon sign at a gas station in the Chicago suburb of Norridge, Illinois, U.S., October 27, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo/File Photo

Exxon in late January wrote to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that the proposal, which is set for a vote at its May annual meeting, is misleading and an attempt to “micro-manage the company,” spokespeople for investors supporting the proposal said.

The Financial Times reported on the letter earlier on Sunday.

The Church Commissioners for England (CCE), the endowment fund of the Church of England, an institutional investor that supports the proposal, as well as New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who manages the state’s pension fund that is pushing the proposal, both saw the Exxon letter, officials for both groups told Reuters.

“Trying to strike out a shareholder proposal from institutional investors with a fiduciary responsibility to manage climate risk is an outdated reflex,” CCE head of responsible investment Edward Mason said in a statement. “Our proposal deserves more serious consideration.”

Exxon rivals Royal Dutch Shell PLC and BP Plc have taken steps to broaden disclosure on greenhouse gas emissions or tied executive pay to reducing emissions.

Investors supporting the Exxon proposal manage a total of $1.9 trillion and are led by DiNapoli.

“Exxon is trying to deny shareholders’ right to vote on a significant climate risk concern,” DiNapoli said in a statement on Sunday. Exxon’s position is “shortsighted and disappointing.”

Exxon spokesman Scott Silvestri said in an email on Sunday that the company did not have anything to share ahead of the company proxy being filed.

The proposal, led by New York state’s pension fund, calls on Exxon to start setting targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions that are “aligned with the greenhouse gas reductions goals established by the Paris climate agreement,” including for use of its own products.

But those short, medium and long-term targets would allow shareholders to supervise its “day-to-day” considerations, Exxon wrote to the SEC.

CCE spokesman Mark Arena said that Exxon told the SEC that it has already put many of the measures the proposal requires in place.

The 2015 Paris Agreement which aims to limit a rise in average world temperatures to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

In 2017, DiNapoli spearheaded a campaign that convinced a majority of shareholders to call on Exxon to detail risks it could face from rising global temperatures.

Exxon produced a report last year 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.

Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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