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SEC throws out investor proposal pushing Exxon on climate change

The federal Securities and Exchange Commission has granted ExxonMobil’s request to throw out a shareholder-pushed resolution urging the oil giant to disclose targets that would drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Why it matters: The investment community is becoming an alternative battleground between publicly traded companies and climate change as U.S. government policy on the matter retreats under President Trump. Activist investors, including those that filed this resolution with Exxon, are worried about what they characterize as the SEC ramping up their scrutiny of resolutions under Trump.

Where it stands:

  • The non-binding, but symbolically significant resolution, filed by the New York public pension fund and Church of England’s endowment, called for disclosure of short-, medium- and long-term targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from company operations and products that are in line with the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
  • The SEC, which governs this process known as “shareholder democracy,” said in a letter Tuesday to Exxon and obtained by Axios that such a resolution would result in micromanaging the company.
  • The proposal seeks “to impose specific methods for implementing complex policies in place of the ongoing judgments of management as overseen by its board of directors,” the SEC wrote.

Read the letter:

For the record: An Exxon spokesman declined to comment. Thomas DiNapoli, who as New York Comptroller manages NY’s pension fund, says he will keep pushing Exxon. “Contrary to the SEC Staff’s determination, investors’ efforts to engage on climate risk concerns do not micromanage Exxon,” DiNapoli said. "We are asking the company to disclose its plans to address a long-term threat to its business.”

Go deeper: Investors ramp up pressure on Exxon over climate change