ExxonMobil aren’t exactly bastions of benevolence when it comes to climate change. Just look at the findings of a recent, comprehensive analysis of their history on the subject: It revealed that they regularly smeared over the findings of their own climatologists by using heavy-handed fossil fuel-touting PR campaigns, an example of cognitive dissonance par excellence.
Now, as revealed by CNN Money, it appears that the world leader in oil have lost a major fight that they’ve been engaged in for some time now. Thanks to the actions of its increasingly green-minded shareholders, the company will now be more open about the threats it faces from both climate change and the efforts to combat it.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean they’re going to start talking about how their fossil fuel ventures are contributing to the anthropogenic phenomenon, as lovely as that would be. Instead, they will publicly explain how they are preparing for the inevitable transition to a low-carbon world, as well as point out that their profits are going to be impeded by a range of factors.
These include, but aren’t limited to, the global turn away from both oil and coal, the proliferation in renewables (and natural gas, the least carbon-rich fossil fuel), and major international and regional agreements to mitigate climate change.
As pointed out by the Guardian, back in June – shortly before the White House pulled out of the Paris agreement – 62 percent of Exxon’s shareholders voted for a motion that demanded the conglomerate be more open about the impacts of climate change.
It required all the company’s actions regarding oil and gas to address the financial risks they are increasingly associated with. Although not demanding that the company just throw in the towel, the resolution did specifically mention the Paris agreement’s 2°C (3.6°F) upper warming limit and urged Exxon to understand that this would result in a reduced demand for their current services.
Any refusal to comply and accept the risks of climate change would clearly threaten the company’s relationship with its investors and shareholders. After resisting for several months, the company has now decided to accept the non-binding motion and proceed accordingly.
It’s being reported that Exxon has “reconsidered” the proposal after discussions with major shareholders, and that “in the near future” it will publish risk assessments on climate change. This certainly doesn’t sound like an iron-clad decision, something some shareholders expressed concern over, but others see the forces of change as essentially inexorable at this point.
They are now (hopefully) in the same camp as 237 other major companies, who according to Bloomberg have already pledged to be more open when it comes to the effects of climate change on their portfolios.