At this point, ExxonMobil management must be so thoroughly over talking about climate change, but alas for them, the company's shareholders are still pretty intent on looking at global warming and how that issue may effect Exxon's profits in the coming years.
During ExxonMobil's annual stockholders meeting on Wednesday in Dallas, management of the Texas-based energy giant will once again encourage shareholders not to vote for anything that even smells like it has something to do with climate change. Every year shareholders can file resolutions to be voted on during the meeting, and this year six of the 10 shareholder resolutions are focused on getting Exxon to be more clear about where it stands when it comes to global warming.
This is pretty much par for the course for Exxon officials — they've been slapping down stockholder requests to take measures against global warming for about 25 years, according to InsideClimateNews — but this time around the company is pushing shareholders to go against the climate change resolutions while its entire climate change policy is under intense scrutiny.
For months now Exxon has faced intense scrutiny based on stories published by InsideClimateNews and the Los Angeles Times that chronicled how top Exxon scientists concluded as early as 1977 that climate change was real, and caused by carbon pollution. From the 1980s to the 2000s, the stories stated, Exxon did a ton of research looking at how greenhouse gas emissions could effect climate change. But at the same time Exxon kept a tight lid on what its scientists had discovered and Exxon officials became some of the most ardent climate change deniers around.
In the wake of these revelations about the gulf between what Exxon knew and what the company did about climate change, the company has become the focus of investigations by state attorneys general from New York, California and a number of other states. (Meanwhile, Texas Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton sided with Exxon last week, because, well, of course he did.)
However, Exxon issued a statement in October insisting that “media and environmental activists’ allegations about the company’s climate research are inaccurate and deliberately misleading" and the company has stuck to that story since then.
The company has also kept to the status quo when it comes to dealing with climate change resolutions from shareholders. This year the six climate change-focused resolutions include taking moral responsibility for climate change, paying special dividends instead of putting more investment into fossil fuel reserves, putting someone who specializes in environmental issues on the company's board and adding up how global moves to slow climate change could effect Exxon's ability to turn a profit. The company has been working for months to ditch the resolutions entirely, according to Reuters.
Back in March, Exxon officials asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to allow the company not to put three of the six propositions on the annual shareholder proxy statement, a report that companies are required to file before a shareholders meeting, including the resolution to look into how climate change legislation could play into the company's bottom line. Exxon has argued that it already gives shareholders information on climate change and how it could effect business, including through a 2014 report, "Energy and Carbon – Managing the Risks."
However, the SEC didn't go for Exxon's request to leave the propositions out of its annual report. Now, some hefty shareholders are backing various resolutions, including New York State, California Public Employees' Retirement System, the Church of England and Norwegian sovereign wealth fund.
But at the same time, Exxon officials have continued to insist that none of these proposals are necessary as far as the company is concerned. "ExxonMobil takes the risks of global climate change seriously and believes these risks warrant thoughtful action," the proxy states. "The board is confident that the company's robust planning and investment processes adequately contemplate and address climate change related risks, ensuring the viability of its assets."
In fact, Exxon is urging shareholders to vote against all 10 of the resolutions included on the report, including the four that have nothing to do with climate change. Why? Well, Exxon explains that the company has all of these issues already covered, at least according to Exxon. Now, the question is whether the shareholders agree.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.