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Under investor pressure, energy firms to reveal more on climate risk

Shareholders at nearly two dozen energy companies have pushed for resolutions urging more disclosure around climate change over the past two years, with most firms either releasing, or committing to release, reports on the matter.

Data: Ceres; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Why it matters: Publicly traded companies are facing increasing pressure from investors on a range of hot-button issues amid inaction in Washington, with energy firms in particular feeling the heat on climate change. This trend has prompted a conservative and industry campaign opposing it.

Yes, but: The resolutions aren’t legally binding. A majority support typically indicates companies will act to respond rather than ignoring it, which often occurs for resolutions that don’t pass 50%. The process, which for most companies occurs in the spring, is called "shareholder democracy."

The details: The resolutions in the chart above call on companies to issue reports assessing how their businesses would fare in a world that cuts greenhouse gas emissions to amounts roughly in line with the aspirations of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

  • The chart, using data the nonprofit group Ceres tracks, indicates that companies are increasingly committing to issuing such reports in exchange for not facing a vote.

Timing: Last year, investors like BlackRock voted to support resolutions at ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum, which were the main reason those passed.

  • In response to that, Exxon released its climate report earlier this year. The oil giant has a rare break at its meeting, which is May 30. "For the first time in twenty-plus years, there is no climate focused resolution at Exxon," said Andrew Logan, who directs oil and gas issues at Ceres.

What's next: The last big vote for the season is at Chevron, which holds its annual meeting on May 30. That resolution goes a step further by asking the company to issue a report describing how it "could adapt its business model to align with a decarbonizing economy by altering its energy mix to substantially reduce dependence on fossil fuels."

  • For the record: Chevron opposes the resolution, according to spokesman Sean Comey: "We disagree with the premise that future diversification of energy sources requires all energy producers to curtail production of fossil fuel resources and/or to diversify their portfolios proportionately," he said.
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