Oil giants face backlash over climate storm

Pressure on oil companies mounts as Norway’s sovereign wealth fund throws its weight behind climate activists against Exxon Mobil and Chevron

Pressure on the world’s largest oil companies mounted as Norway’s giant sovereign wealth fund put its weight behind climate activists against US oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

The £1.1 trillion fund, the largest of its kind in the world, will support proposals from shareholders of both companies at their annual general meetings (AGMs) on Wednesday to introduce targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The move came as the AGM of French fossil fuel giant Total descended into chaos yesterday as police were forced to step in to deter protesters from disrupting the meeting.

Officers clashed with activists outside the venue in Paris, spraying activists with tear gas and dragging others away so investors could attend.

The commotion continued indoors, when 30.4 percent of voting shareholders supported a motion calling on Total to accelerate its reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It followed a tumultuous rally this week in London for rival Shell, where protesters harassed the sign.

Under pressure: Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has thrown in behind climate activists against US oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron

About 20 percent of voting investors also opposed the energy transition strategy, while another 20 percent supported a motion to make environmental targets more ambitious.

There were similar scenes last month at fellow oil giant BP’s annual meeting, which was disrupted by protesters after the company scaled back pledges to cut oil and gas production and lower its emissions reduction targets.

Carine Smith Ihenacho, the chief corporate governance officer of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, said it did not consider the two US giants “ambitious enough” to cut emissions as upcoming AGMs for Exxon and Chevron will be harassed by climate protesters. The fund is the sixth largest investor in Exxon with a stake of nearly 1.2 percent.

It controls 0.9 percent of Chevron, making it the tenth-largest shareholder, but faced accusations of hypocrisy for pushing oil companies to set tougher climate change targets while drawing huge amounts of money from Norway’s fossil fuel reserves.

Some activists have questioned why it supports climate change proposals for Exxon and Chevron and has not supported similar resolutions tabled by BP, Shell and Total.

“This jeopardizes their credibility as stewards of the global economy,” says Mark van Baal, founder of the climate activist group Follow This. They say to Shell, BP and Total: you don’t have to reduce emissions this decade. We expect them to correct this mistake next year.’

  • Miner Glencore faced an uprising during a debate over its thermal coal business. At the annual meeting, just over 30 percent of eligible investors opposed the climate report.