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Shareholders Filing More Climate Change Resolutions

Environmentally minded investors have filed a record 95 climate change-related shareholder resolutions with 82 North American companies this year, a 40% increase over the 2009 proxy season, according to the Ceres investor coalition. Targeted corporations include some of the world's largest energy companies.

The increase "is a first sign of the growing pressure on companies to disclose climate risks and opportunities in the wake of the recent Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC] climate disclosure guidance and other recent policy developments," according to Ceres, a national advocate for environmentally sustainable investment among corporate and investor organizations.

The SEC in January approved a requirement for companies to publicly disclose the impact of climate change on their businesses, including the effects of new regulations and/or legislation they face in the United States or overseas and potential economic and physical risks. Last month Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced legislation that would block the SEC requirement (see NGI, March 1). A new Environmental Protection Agency mandatory greenhouse gas reporting rule further bolstered investors' requests for increased disclosure, Ceres said.

Investors have filed resolutions with ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, asking the companies to report on regulatory, legal and reputational risks, as well as environmental impacts from their extensive Canadian oilsands operations. Investments in the oilsands "expose the company to significant financial and regulatory risks," according to the ExxonMobil shareholder resolution. "There is significant potential for future carbon regulation, oil price volatility, water scarcity, reclamation costs, as well as the legal and reputational risks arising from local environmental damage and impairment of traditional livelihoods to impact the long-term economics of these projects and the value of our company."

Other shareholder resolutions seek disclosure from electric utilities, including Southern Company, and coal producers including Massey Energy and Consol Energy, on their plans for adopting greenhouse gas reduction goals in anticipation of expected carbon-reducing regulations. Climate change resolutions have also been filed with Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, CMS Energy Corp., Dynegy, Mirant Corp. and Shell, among others.

The resolutions were filed by public pension funds and labor, foundation, religious and other institutional investors, Ceres said. Many of the investors are part of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, an alliance of more than 80 institutional investors claiming total collective assets of more than $8 trillion. A list of the resolutions is available at www.incr.com/resolutions.

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