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Church of England investors hold oil companies to account on climate change

Posted on: May 24, 2019 4:53 PM
Shell Offshore Inc, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell plc, this week began production at its new Appomattox floating production system in the US Gulf of Mexico. The deep water site has been described as a “new frontier”.
Photo Credit: Shell

[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] Two multinational oil companies were challenged and commended on their climate change targets by the Church of England this week (Tuesday 21 May) when representatives spoke at shareholder meetings for Shell and BP. The Church Commissioners’ Head of Investment addressed BP’s Annual General Meeting in Aberdeen about net zero emissions. BP’s overall carbon emissions rose in 2018 to their highest in six years.

Edward Mason, head of responsible investment for the Church Commissioners said: “can we expect BP, in the near future, to indicate a date by which it is planning to achieve net-zero emissions across its operations and products, and can we expect this date to be within the range of 2050-2070, the generally accepted window for restricting the rise in the global average temperature to between 1.5 and 2 degrees?”

Following discussion, a climate change shareholder resolution was passed with the support of 99.14 per cent of shareholders and BP’s Board. The binding resolution, filed by investors acting as part of Climate Action 100+, means that BP will now need to set out a business strategy consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The same day in the Hague, the Church of England Pensions Board addressed the Royal Dutch Shell AGM. Adam Matthews, Director of Ethics and Engagement for the Church of England Pensions Board, has represented shareholders in climate talks with Shell. He said the group’s strategy was an example to other energy companies. He said: “[I] suggest that a joint message is sent from this AGM to others within the [oil and gas] sector and to investors that have yet to embrace an approach that addresses the vast majority of the impact on society and the climate by the setting of targets covering scope three emissions.”

While BP shareholders also praised the company for supporting the climate resolutions, some wanted it to lay out stricter emission targets. Tracy Rembert, Director of Catholic Responsible Investing (CBIS), told the AGM, “We need to be much more ambitious, not less, in how we tackle the biggest contributor to the emissions our company makes.”

Speaking to Shell shareholders, Edward Mason said the company had a key role to play in both lobbying and leadership on emission targets.

He said, “We believe that the Joint Statement presents a framework for other oil and gas companies and would strongly encourage them to follow suit. . . While we applaud Shell’s leadership, we continue to require further action. We expect a full set of measurable targets by next year linked to remuneration as well as continued efforts by Shell to provide clarity on the alignment of its ambitions and scenarios with the Paris Agreement and capital deployment.”