Exxon steps up efforts to sway shareholders on climate-report vote | Reuters

By Gary McWilliams and Ross Kerber
| HOUSTON/BOSTON

HOUSTON/BOSTON Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) has stepped up efforts to persuade investors to vote against climate-related proposals at Wednesday’s annual meeting with a campaign of calling, writing and lobbying shareholders in person.

The world’s largest publicly traded oil company opposes a proposal requiring it to report on the risks to its business from new technologies and global climate change policies, insisting it already provides the information.

Last year, the same proposal was backed by 38.1 percent of shares voted.

The stakes are higher this year. The business-impact issue is central to lawsuits by two state attorneys general alleging Exxon soft-peddled the risks to consumers and shareholders. Wall Street support of similar measures also has convinced energy companies including Occidental Petroleum (OXY.N) to address the Paris climate accord’s goal of keeping global temperature increases under 2-degrees Celsius.

If the proposal garners less than last year’s 38 percent support, it could endorse Exxon’s view which is that its current reporting is appropriate, said Rob Schuwerk, senior counsel for environmental think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative.

But if support this year exceeds 50 percent, the oil company likely would do more to explain potential business impacts from having to meet the Paris agreement’s temperature goal. A result in between the two, he said, would be the “the hazy middle” that would still show growing investor interest in climate issues.

Exxon took a conciliatory approach in a letter to investors on Tuesday. Vice President Jeff Woodbury wrote that on many of the shareholder proposals “the corporation agrees with the underlying objective – we just have a different view on the best means to achieve it.”

Prior shareholder letters insisted the proposals were misguided or ignored the company’s efforts to spell out its position that even…

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