That information, first made public last fall by reporters with Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times, sparked an expansive investigation by a coalition of 19 attorneys general.
“It is the right of shareholders to know the entire scope of a company’s operations, and the public has the right to know about something as threatening to public health and economic well-being as climate change,” said Leslie Samuelrich, president of Green Century Capital Management, which is also heading a coalition of investors representing $9.95 billion in assets under management (AUM) that is also supporting the New York Attorney General investigation.
“If Exxon intentionally misled the public about climate change and fossil fuels, then it should be held accountable,” Samuelrich added. “Only a full investigation will uncover if the company knew, what it knew and when it knew it.”
Bolstering those accusations, on Wednesday the Guardian reported that during the administration of George W. Bush, ExxonMobil actively worked to “block public debate on global warming and delay domestic and international regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.” In one instance, reported Guardian environmental correspondent Suzanne Goldberg, a former senior environmental advisor at Exxon specifically asked government staff to scrap a “well-established congressional lecture series on climate science,” claiming the sessions were “agenda-driven.”
(It is worth noting that the Guardian was specifically banned from the shareholder meeting on Wednesday because of the newspaper’s “lack of objectivity on climate change reporting.”)
Claudia Black-Kalinsky, whose father was one of the original Exxon scientists to raise concerns about the impact of greenhouse gases on the global climate, published an op-ed Wednesday asking how different the world might be if the oil giant had only listened to its own researchers.
Black-Kalinsky, whose daughter Claudia took part in the protest Wednesday, concludes that “We’ll never really know what would have happened if Exxon had listened to my father,” but notes that at the shareholders meeting, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson “can still do the right thing.”
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Also Wednesday, environmental activists are picketing outside the Chevron shareholder meeting in San Ramon, California specifically demanding accountability for the communities, from Ecuador to Richmond, California, who have suffered from “Chevron’s reckless pursuit of profits.”
In both shareholder meetings, investors with the As You Sow advocacy group have put forth an additional proposal calling on Chevron and Exxon to report their reserves—their primary assets—not just in the traditional “barrels of oil equivalent,” but in an energy-neutral metric that applies to all energy resources, including renewables such as solar, wind, and geothermal.
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“We have to get beyond a barrel-based standard,” said Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow. “Replacing every barrel of oil with another barrel of oil doesn’t make business sense in a carbon-constrained economy that’s moving away from fossil fuels…Even oil companies can change—they must change.”
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