Shareholder-Powered Climate Action

Climate Change threatens to destroy the ecological balance of our world… and our pocketbooks?  For those who have invested money in fossil fuels, it’s time to be concerned.

IMAGE_02D10765-E1C3-4987-A98A-E3FDDC82270ABy Blanche Helbling
Communications Intern

Two of the largest fossil fuel companies in the world, BP and Shell, each recently received shareholder resolutions asking them to divulge to their shareholders more complete illustrations to how climate change can and will affect their businesses.

The resolutions, prepared by an international coalition of NGOs, request information pertaining to what the companies are doing to curb their carbon emissions and how the companies’ actions align with international commitment to keep global climate change to within the UNCCC’s 2-degree ceiling to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. In order to ensure the earth’s temperature remains below the 2-degree mandate, studies indicate that 80% of our known fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned. Therefore, not only is investing in continued fossil fuel use (not to mention explorations for more unusable reserves) an ecologically irresponsible move, but it is also a fiscally irresponsible to invest on this carbon bubble.

BP and Shell have both publicly supported the shareholder resolutions, but shareholders will officially vote on whether to adopt the resolutions at the company’s annual general meetings, which are scheduled for April and May, respectively. For the proposed resolutions to take effect – and change the companies’ annual reporting – 75% of shareholders must vote in their favor. In the cases of both BP and Shell, giant firms and pension funds control large chunks of shares, and thereby dominate a significant portion of the vote.

People's Climate March, 2014
People’s Climate March, 2014

London-based NGO ShareAction is encouraging the public to sign its petition to demonstrate that the public supports the resolutions, to encourage larger investors to, too, and to support the global commitment to stopping climate change.  Environmental advocates worldwide can also amplify their voices by asking for a #SeatAtTheTable via social media.

Originally posted on April 7, 2015.