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ExxonMobil concede defeat in climate change battle with Church of England

Posted on: December 13, 2017 10:05 AM
ExxonMobil’s oil refinery in Baton Rouge
Photo Credit: ExxonMobil / Wikipedia

The global oil giant ExxonMobil have finally caved in to shareholder demands – led by the C of E’s Church Commissioners – to set out how the business will be affected by efforts to halt climate change. The announcement came two years to the day after the breakthrough Paris agreement on climate change. To mark the anniversary, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, brought together the President of the World Bank, the Secretary General of the United Nations, international leaders and “committed citizens from around the world” to review its implementation and discuss new ways to “address the ecological emergency for our planet.”

ExxonMobil say that will provide shareholders with information on “energy demand sensitivities, implications of two degree Celsius scenarios, and positioning for a lower-carbon future.” The demand was led by the Church Commissioners and New York State Comptroller Thomas P DiNapoli, who filed a joint motion asking Exxon to report on how its business model will be affected by global efforts to limit the average rise in temperatures to below 2-degrees Celsius. With strong opposition from Exxon’s Board, the motion failed to pass at the 2016 AGM. But, in spite of continued opposition, the resolution was passed at this year’s AGM in May.

“We welcome ExxonMobil’s commitment to implement the resolution passed earlier this year and disclose the impact of measures to combat climate change on its portfolio,” Edward Mason, Head of Responsible Investment for the Church Commissioners for England, said in response to the announcement. “Climate change is one of the most significant long-term risks investors face, and it is essential that companies confront the challenge that it poses. We look forward to continuing to work with Exxon and others on this issue.”

The motion put forward by the Church Commissioners is part of its programme of active engagement with companies as part of its ethical investment policy.

A number of significant announcements were made at yesterday’s Paris summit. The World Bank said it would phase out finance for oil and gas by 2019; the European Commission – the executive arm of the European Union – announced funding of €9 billion (Euros, approximately £8 billion GBP) for investment in sustainable cities, clean energy and sustainable agriculture; companies including Axa and the ING bank announced partial divestments from fossil fuels; and Microsoft founder Bill Gates announced that his charitable foundation would spend $300 million (USD, approximately £225 million GBP) to help smallholding farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia adapt to protect their farms from droughts, heatwaves and floods caused by the effects of climate change, The Guardian newspaper reports.

One notable world leader who was absent from the summit was US President Donald Trump, who announced in June that he was pulling the US out of the 2016 Paris agreement. The former Governor of California, film star Arnold Schwarzenegger, sought to reassure participants that Americans were still committed to tackling climate change, according to the Business Green website. “The private sector didn't drop out, the public sector didn't drop out, the universities didn't drop out, the scientists didn't drop out, the engineers didn't drop out – no-one else dropped out,” he said. “Donald Trump pulled Donald Trump out of the Paris agreement, so don't worry about that.”

Meanwhile, a project to install solar power farms on church-owned lands in Africa is beginning to take off. The initiative, which was sparked by a chance conversation the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby had with an Israeli NGO on his visit to the Holy Land in April, will see spare church lands used to produce electricity from solar panels.

In Malawi, the Diocese of the Upper Shire is embracing the solar farm project in partnership with Gigawatt Global and the Interfaith Centre for Sustainable Development . Bishop Brighton Vitta Malasa met with Gigawatt Global’s project managers is working on an a memorandum of understanding with the country’s Energy Ministry.

Archbishop Albert Chama, the Primate of Central Africa, together with a delegation from Zambia, also met with the project managers of Gigawatt global and the project is moving forward.

The Anglican Church of Burundi has signed a memorandum of understanding; and its provincial development officer, Leonidas Niyongabo, is visiting four communities with engineers from Gigawatt Global to analyse electricity demand and to prepare micro-grid solutions.