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Exxon and Chevron targeted by climate-activist shareholder group Follow This

Mark van Baal, founder of Follow This.
Mark van Baal, founder of Follow This.

The Dutch activist fund that has filed shareholder resolutions pressuring major oil companies in Europe to take action on climate change has set its sights on the U.S.

Investor advocacy group Follow This has filed requests for shareholder votes at Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp.’s annual meetings for the first time, asking the companies to align their plans with the Paris climate accord.

It has also filed resolutions for Royal Dutch Shell Plc, BP Plc and Equinor ASA.

Big Oil has come under increasing pressure from investors and environmental groups to invest in cleaner fuels as part of a wider energy transition.

While Follow This resolutions have so far been defeated, the group has gained public support from investors such as Dutch insurer Aegon and M&G Investments.

“We believe change comes from a small number of progressive investors, not the majority,” Follow This head Mark Van Baal said in a phone interview.

“All shareholder proposals will go through the proper process in advance of the annual meeting,”said Exxon spokesman Casey Norton. Chevron didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this year, Exxon shareholders were denied a vote on publishing targets to align its business with the Paris Agreement after the Securities and Exchange Commission ruled against a resolution brought forward by the Church of England and New York State.

The SEC said that Exxon’s public disclosures “compare favorably” with its guidelines.

Mr Van Baal said that by substituting the word “targets” for “strategies” the resolution is less likely to be blocked on the grounds of micromanaging.

Follow This buys shares in oil companies in order to press them over emissions. Resolutions ask companies to align their investments with the 2016 Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

The group also says scope 3 emissions — those produced by consumers of oil companies’ products — should be included in targets.

In May, BP investors voted in favor of the company reporting in greater detail how its investments are compatible with the Paris accord.

A second, more stringent filing proposed by Follow This was not successful.

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