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Trade Group Targets Shareholders Pressuring Big Oil on Climate Change

Trade Group Targets Shareholders Pressuring Big Oil on Climate Change

New York Stock Exchange trading floor

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a 123-year-old trade group that has worked diligently to defend Big Oil in the burgeoning climate liability battles, has also taken on another opponent to the status quo: investors.

In addition to filing briefs in defense of the fossil fuel industry, launching campaigns to discredit the communities filing suits and intervening on the side of the federal government in a landmark constitutional climate lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, NAM has rallied behind efforts to keep corporate shareholders from influencing how oil companies conduct business.

In recent years, shareholders concerned about climate-related risks to the companies’ bottom lines, which includes liability suits, have introduced proposals urging oil and gas companies to reduce their carbon footprint and be more forthcoming about the climate risks to their bottom line.

Once largely unmoved by a hard-to-imagine future threat, investors now need only look out their windows or turn to news reports to see firsthand the catastrophic effects of climate change: The charred remains of entire communities in the aftermath of California wildfires; parts of Texas submerged by more than 4 feet of water in the wake of Hurricane Harvey; countless unnamed weather events from the record-shattering rain that swept through Louisiana in 2016 to the now-routine flooding in Florida and areas along the Atlantic seaboard.

While most shareholder proposals have failed, there have been some victories: In 2017, investors forced Exxon to produce its first climate-risks report and other proposals prompted Occidental Petroleum, BP and Shell to increase reporting on climate risks. BP announced in February that it will support a resolution calling for even more disclosure that will be proposed at its May 2019 shareholder meeting.

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