Big Oil defeats represent watershed moment in climate battle –

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Big Oil defeats represent watershed moment in climate battle – fr


Members of the environmental group MilieuDefensie celebrate the verdict in the Dutch environmental organization’s case against Royal Dutch Shell Plc, outside the courthouse in The Hague, the Netherlands, on Wednesday, May 26, 2021.
Peter Boer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
LONDON – Some of the world’s largest issuers have suffered a series of historic defeats in boardrooms and courts, reflecting the waning patience of investors pushing for much faster action to address the climate emergency.
In just hours on Wednesday, shareholders of US oil giant ExxonMobil backed a tiny activist hedge fund in overhaul of the company’s board of directors, investors in US energy company Chevron defied management in a vote crucial on the climate and a Dutch court ordered Royal Dutch Shell to take a lot of it. more aggressive action to reduce its carbon emissions.

It shows the growing pressure on international oil and gas companies to set short, medium and long-term goals consistent with the Paris Agreement – the climate agreement widely recognized as being of crucial importance to avoid a irreversible climate crisis.

At present, none of the world’s largest oil and gas companies have revealed how they will meet the goal of becoming a zero-interest company by 2050 or sooner, more than five years after the ratification of the ‘Paris Agreement by nearly 200 countries.

“A thoroughly overwhelming day for Big Oil,” Bill McKibben, author and founder of local climate campaign 350.org, said Wednesday via Twitter. “Thanks to everyone who is fighting – you push long enough and the dominoes fall. “

What happened on Wednesday?

“It’s not often that three of the supermajors feature prominently in the headlines within 24 hours, but it certainly was yesterday,” analysts at Raymond James said in a research note.
“And the three titles – concerning Exxon, Chevron and Shell – shared a common theme: climate risk. “

The No.1 engine, which has a 0.02% stake in Exxon, toppled at least two board members at the oil giant’s annual general meeting on Wednesday. The vote came as the activist firm sought to force the company to accelerate its plans to move away from fossil fuels.

Exxon CEO Darren Woods told CNBC “Closing Bell” on Wednesday that he welcomed the new directors. Woods added that he was eager to “help them understand our plans and then hear their views and perspectives.”

Exxon management has sought to focus on the actions it is taking to consolidate its role in a lower carbon future, including funding research into carbon capture and other abatement technologies. shows.

Meanwhile, shareholders of Chevron, Exxon’s closest rival, voted in favor of a proposal by Dutch group Follow This to encourage the oil company to cut emissions. The move underscored an activist-led investor push to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

“Big Oil can make or break the Paris Agreement. Investors in oil companies are now saying: we want you to act on lowering emissions now, not in the distant future, ”Mark van Baal, founder of Follow This, said in a statement. after majority vote.

Chevron is committed to reducing the carbon emissions that contribute to the climate crisis, but it has not yet charted a path to net zero emissions by 2050.

In Europe, a Dutch court ruled that Shell must reduce its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels. This is a much higher reduction than the company’s current target of reducing its emissions. 20% emissions by 2030.

The court ruling also said that Shell was responsible for its own carbon emissions and those of its suppliers, known as Scope 3 emissions. The court’s verdict is believed to be the first time in history that a company has been legally obliged to align its policies with the Paris Agreement.

A Shell spokesperson said the company “fully expected” to appeal what it called a “disappointing” court ruling.

After that?

Tom Cummins, a dispute resolution partner at law firm Ashurst, told CNBC by email that the Dutch court ruling on Shell could have a wider impact on the oil and gas industry.

“This is arguably the most significant judgment related to climate change to date, highlighting that businesses and not just governments can be the target of strategic litigation that seeks to drive behavior change,” Cummins said. .

“Oil and gas companies will review the judgment, as will lobby groups and plaintiff lawyers to see if there is a possibility that similar claims will be brought against other companies in other jurisdictions. “

A sign is displayed outside a Chevron gas station on July 31, 2020 in Novato, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

However, not everyone agrees that the court ruling is likely to put increased pressure on the oil and gas industry. Per Magnus Nysveen, head of analysis at Oslo-based Rystad Energy, said it was “hard to imagine” that a final court ruling would condemn oil companies for so-called end-use emissions.

“End-user emissions should be more the responsibility of the consumer. In my opinion, this decision has a negligible chance of surviving appeals, ”Nysveen said.

“It is not surprising, however, that we see this low court ruling occurring in the Netherlands, as public opinion in the country is particularly sensitive to the climate impacts of the energy industry,” he added.

“We consider the practical implications to be largely insignificant: that Engine # 1 added two ‘old energy’ practitioners to XOM’s board is largely symbolic, while we recognize that the leadership could be more. conciliatory amid an increasingly heated climate debate, ”Doug Leggate, research analyst at Bank of America, said in a note.

“This has no impact on our vision of the investment case, the strategy or the management team of XOM which we see as pragmatic advocates of responsible oil and gas investment,” he said. added.

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