The SEC has decided that Exxon does not have to allow its shareholders to vote on a company proposal to make public its goals for lowering CO2 emissions. This move is in reaction to a push by activist investors and led by the New York state comptroller to have Exxon set annual targets which will reach the goals prescribed by the international Paris climate agreement of 2015.
In January Exxon requested the SEC disallow a vote on the proposal to disclose such climate-oriented goals. The SEC answered this week, stating that it would not recommend the SEC to take any enforcement action against Exxon if the company decides to keep the proposal out of May’s annual shareholder meeting.
Activists say they want to vote on the issue to compel Exxon to be more responsible and accountable about climate change.
A lawyer for the SEC said the oversite agency decided in Exxon’s favor because the proposal would “micromanage” the company and harm the value and supplant the judgement of Exxon managers and directors.
President Donald Trump’s announcement that he will be moving the United States away from strict compliance with the Paris climate change accords shocked many in the business community, not just green activists. Some of the country’s most respected business leaders were strong in their condemnation of Trump’s decision.
These leaders are not tree-huggers in disguise. Yes, many do see climate change for what it is, a threat to the future well-being of the entire planet, whether you live in Paris or Pittsburgh. But it is not this threat, which is many years in the future, that is rallying businessmen against Trump’s position on the Paris accords. It is pure and simple economics.
The majority of businessmen, not just in the United States, but around the world, agree that taking a realistic view on climate change and developing technologies and other problem solving methods are actually economic stimulants.
On May 10, with the (misplaced) hope that they could influence the President, 30 CEOs took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, publishing an open letter to Trump whose opening sentence says, “We are writing to express our strong support for the U.S. remaining in the Paris Climate Agreement.”
The letter was signed by the CEOs of the following major US companies:
- 3M Company
- Allianz SE
- Bank of America Corp.
- BROAD Group
- Campbell Soup Company
- Cargill Inc.
- Citigroup Inc.
- The Coca-Cola Company
- Corning Incorporated
- Cummins Inc.
- Dana Incorporated
- The Dow Chemical Company
- E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company
- General Electric
- The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
- Harris Corporation
- Johnson & Johnson
- JP Morgan Chase
- Morgan Stanley
- Newell Brands Inc.
- Pacific Gas and Electric Company
- Procter & Gamble Company
- Royal DSM
- Tesla Inc.
- Virgin Group
- The Walt Disney Company
This is just the list of companies that participated in the WSJ ad. There are more companies that agree with their position, including the CEO of Exxon.
Only two other major carbon producing countries refrained from signing the Paris Accord, Nicaragua and Syria. As one commentator put it:
“The U.S. cannot lead the world in any dimension if it abdicates responsibility and leadership for the greatest challenge facing humanity.”