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Benedicte Hautefort’s Column

Say-on-Climate : a growing gap between US and Europe

Climate activism seems to have reached a peak in the US, when it is gaining support in Europe, including from political power. French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne publicly supported the activists demonstrating in front of the Totalénergies assembly, saying that they were playing their role as whistleblowers. The shareholder proposal on Climate gained 30% support from shareholders – significant, though not enough to pass. Everywhere else in Europe, Climate-related shareholders proposals are scoring this year 24% in average, vs 4% last year. 20% at Shell, 17% at BP.

Things are shifting in the opposite direction in the US. ExxonMobil and Chevron shareholders strongly rejected a total of 13 shareholder proposals related to carbon emissions or climate change at the US oil majors’ annual meetings on May 31st. And political power is openly, in the southern states, in favour of slowing down decarbonation, in the name of profit growth. Public perception in the US has changed over the past year, as Russia’s war in Ukraine drove up fuel prices and gave renewed emphasis to energy security alongside protecting the climate.

This is a massive stepping back vs last year. Only 11% of Exxon shareholders supported this year a proposal calling for the company to set emissions reduction targets that would be consistent with the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Last year, the same proposal gained 28% support. A similar proposal at Chevron received 9% support this year, vs 33% last year. Last year a majority of Exxon shareholders backed a proposal calling for the company to report how a rapid global shift away from fossil fuels would affect its finances.

BlackRock investor voted for this proposal, supporting Follow This GNO, and so did Norges Bank, Norway sovereign fund, for example. But this is not enough though. Chevron’s first shareholder is Vanguard, based in Pennsylvania, and the vote outcome shows clearly that Vanguard supported management against the climate NGOs. Vanguard ranks among the top 3 asset managers in the world – currently n°2 after Blackrock and before State Street. Their Climate policy is therefore very influential on the market.

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