‘Do it!' was the resounding message from shareholders for ExxonMobil on climate action, who replaced three of its board members with climate-friendly nominees to speed up progress | Photo: Bloomberg

Rebellious shareholders place new members on Exxon’s board to speed up climate action

A major revolt against ExxonMobil by its shareholders managed to place the third new member onto its board of directors, who not only have extensive industry experience but will also work to accelerate ExxonMobil’s progress on climate action. The rebellion highlights increasing dissatisfaction by the shareholders against the driller dragging its feet on reducing emissions, and the new members were nominated by a small hedge fund named Engine No. 1. 

The ousting of the former board members by climate-conscious investors could be a “watershed event” — as described by the director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University — and came in the same week where 99% of HSBC’s shareholders voted for the bank to phase out any financing for coal projects by 2040. 

Dutch court hands out landmark ruling, orders Shell to target absolute emissions reduction 

A court in The Netherlands ordered that the country’s largest oil and gas driller, Royal Dutch Shell, deliver absolute reductions in its emissions, and not just target a drop in the carbon intensity of its products. The ruling may be a landmark in litigation against energy companies, and it also ordered Shell to lower its emissions by 46% below 1990 levels by 2030. Shell, however, had recently rejected any absolute reduction in emissions, as that would come only by reducing the scale of its operations. 

The ruling was celebrated by climate campaigners, but the driller plans to appeal the ruling, even though the court concluded that its net-zero target by 2050 was full of conditions and the company was not doing enough to curb greenhouse gas emissions. 

BlackRock votes against BP’s opposition to better climate action 

One of the world’s largest asset management firms, BlackRock, voted to mount pressure on BP’s board to do more on climate action, even though the board opposed investor and shareholder pressure on the matter. BlackRock holds 6.8% equity in BP and has itself been criticised for not taking a tougher stance with its investment holdings on accelerated climate action, but its latest vote comes as a stiffening of its opposition to energy boards that are perceived to be lagging behind on slashing emissions. 

Curiously, despite its board’s objection to faster climate action, BP’s new CEO, Bernard Looney, is known to be a proactive supporter of climate action, who last year proposed to reduce the driller’s emissions by 40% by 2030 with the larger goal of making the world’s largest oil and gas extractor go net-zero by 2050. 

Untaxed private jet flights in Europe 50X more polluting than trains 

A new report by a research team in Europe found that private jet flights within the EU are the most polluting form of travel as they are “10 times more carbon intensive than airliners (commercial aircraft)” and emit 50 times more CO2 than trains over the same distance. Yet, private flights saw a quick rebound in the region last August, even as commercial air traffic remained 60% below pre-pandemic levels. Most private jets are owned by multi-billionaires and are curiously not taxed by the EU, even though seven of the 10 most polluting routes they fly lie within the UK-France-Switzerland-Italy corridor. 

In fact, the report found that 20% of all flights in France come from private jets, and it recommends three steps to address their carbon footprint: switching to hydrogen or electric propulsion by 2030, taxing the flights to raise research funds for cleaner alternatives and to account for their disproportionate share of transport emissions, and prohibiting flights between destinations that can be covered by alternatives in under 2.5 hours.

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