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January 09, 2014
Evaluate Public Policies on Climate, Investors Tell Energy Companies
    by Robert Kropp

Building on its efforts to pressure corporations to report on greenhouse gas emissions strategies, the Raising the Bar investor initiative requests that energy companies review lobbying policies relating to climate legislation.


Published in 2013, a summary for policymakers of the Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) are now at a level “unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.”

“It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the summary continued.

Also in 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reporte d that for the first time, the daily mean concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) at its measurement station in Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

The levels of CO2 measured at Mauna Loa have not been experienced on Earth in at least three million years.

“Investors have engaged companies for over 20 years on climate change,” a recent press release from Walden Asset Management stated, and 2013 was no different in that regard. For the first time, shareowner resolutions were filed requesting that two of the nation's largest coal companies report on the implications of stranded assets, or the fossil fuel reserves that will have to stay in the ground if global temperature increases are to be limited to two degree Celsius.

Effective climate change legislation would make the efforts of sustainable investors easier and much less expensive, but in its persistent absence shareowner action in 2014 will continue. Resolutions filed with seven energy companies “are part of a larger investor climate initiative, 'Raising the Bar' with companies, in response to the expanding and alarming scientific evidence of changing climate and its significant, negative environmental and economic impacts accompanied by growing risk to companies and investors alike,” Walden stated.

The seven resolutions—filed with American Electric Power, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, Dominion Resources, and Exxon Mobil—request that the companies “do a Board level review of their public policy positions and lobbying activities related to energy policy and climate change.”

“There is a widespread public perception that energy companies have regularly opposed new legislation or regulation addressing climate change,” the press release states. The resolutions also request that independent Board members undertake “an analysis of political advocacy and lobbying activities, including indirect support through trade associations, think tanks and other nonprofit organizations.”

Investors sponsoring the resolutions include State of Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, New York State Common Retirement Fund, foundations including The Christopher Reynolds Foundation and Needmor Fund, religious organizations including the Unitarian Universalist Service Association, United Church Funds and Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, Texas, sustainable investment firms such as The Sustainability Group (Loring Wolcott), and Zevin Asset Management, as well as clients of Walden.

The Raising the Bar investor coalition, which in past years has focused on climate change reporting and emissions reduction, announced in September that its goals going forward would include the resolutions filed with the seven energy companies, “in light of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change‘s (IPCC) scientific findings and requisite public policies to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent globally (80 percent in the US) by 2050. In short, use the IPCC framework as the foundation to reframe GHG goals.”

The coalition also stated it would prioritize requesting that energy companies report on the implications of stranded assets.

 

 
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