Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Two huge oil companies charting different paths through the industry's uneven movement toward lower-carbon sources are both coming under fresh — but different — forms of pressure and scrutiny.

Driving the news: The Financial Times scooped yesterday that several clean energy executives have left Shell "amid a split over how far and fast the oil giant should shift towards greener fuels."

  • Meanwhile, ExxonMobil, which rejects the emissions targets and diversification of European peers, faces a new push by outside investors seeking stronger steps on climate — including new board members.

Why it matters: Oil giants' balance sheets and power mean that their decisions will influence the pace of the global movement toward cleaner sources (though it's also easy to overstate their sway).

Where it stands: Shell months ago pledged to become a "net-zero emissions" company by 2050, and for years has been moving into renewables, EV charging and other spaces outside oil and gas, which remain its dominant products.But Shell intends to remain a massive oil and natural gas producer for a long time.

  • The FT reports: "Some executives have pushed for a more aggressive shift from oil but top management is more inclined to stick closer to the company’s current path."
  • Departures include: "Marc van Gerven, who headed the solar, storage and on-shore wind businesses at Shell, Eric Bradley, who worked in Shell’s distributed energy division, and Katherine Dixon, a leader in its energy transition strategy team."

Quick take: One trend in recent years is employees within corporate giants including Amazon and Microsoft pushing for stronger climate policies — and going public with criticisms.

  • So keep an eye on whether and how much this becomes a thing within the oil and gas sector.

The intrigue: This week is also bringing new pressure on Exxon that's due to investor pique over its financial performance in recent years and related concern that its climate posture leaves it poorly positioned.

  • The investment group Engine No. 1 just launched a shareholder push to place four new directors on Exxon's board. One is Anders Runevad, former CEO of wind turbine heavyweight Vestas, and another is Alexander Karsner, a senior strategist with X, the "moonshot factory" of Google parent Alphabet.
  • The big California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which Engine No. 1 says holds over $300 million in Exxon shares, is backing the effort.
If changes happen...

Speaking of pressure on oil majors, it'll be interesting to see if this effort around Exxon gains traction.

Between the lines: Shareholder bids to force big changes in energy companies' direction are usually batted aside and voted down.

  • One thing to watch is whether other major shareholders, such as BlackRock (which declined comment), get behind it.

What's happening: A growing number of big financial players have joined the umbrella group Climate Action 100+, an investor network that pushes companies to make new disclosures and emissions commitments.

  • But membership doesn't require them to support specific shareholder resolutions.

What they're saying: Mindy Lubber, CEO of the sustainable investment group Ceres that works with Climate Action 100+, says the Engine No. 1 effort is "consistent" with the umbrella group's goals.

  • "[W]e anticipate that Climate Action 100+ investors will welcome the opportunity to scrutinize a new slate of directors and their plans to address the significant risks of climate change to shareholder value," she tells Axios.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jan 15, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Unlocking the ways to meet China's carbon emissions goal

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

China has a workable path toward making a huge head start on its long-term climate pledges by ensuring that essentially all new power generating capacity added going forward is zero-carbon, a new analysis argues.

Driving the news: The report out today offers what authors call a technically and economically feasible roadmap for transforming China's power sector over the next 10 years.

Ina Fried, author of Login
51 mins ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!