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Exxon-Mobil low carbon future as Trump pulls climate plug

BOSTON, MA: June 01, 2017. As expected, Donald Trump has announced the United States is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change, despite the reported urging of U.S. secretary of State and former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to remain, saying he's prepared to "make a deal that's fair".

Some 24 hours earlier, investors at Exxon-Mobil's annual meeting endorsed a shareholder proposal calling on the company to disclose its plans for a low-carbon future.

With a 62 percent majority vote, the proposal was hotly contested as Exxon's management fought to sway investors right up to the last moment, according to Sustainability advocate Ceres.

The non-profit organization's Investor Network on Climate Risk and Sustainability comprises more than 130 institutional investors, collectively managing more than US$17 trillion in assets.

Donald Trump White House Climate change announcementInstitutional investors with more than US$5 trillion of combined assets under management co-filed the ExxonMobil proposal, including lead-filers from the New York State Common Retirement Fund and the Church Commissioners for England.

"This majority vote sends a resounding message that market forces are continuing to drive toward a low carbon transition, and investors expect companies -- especially carbon-intensive companies like Exxon -- to show how they are addressing the corresponding risks and opportunities," said Sue Reid, vice president of Climate and Energy at Ceres. "Business as usual is no longer an option for carbon-intensive companies like Exxon."

The vote, coupled with recent majority votes at Occidental Petroleum and PPL Corporation, represent a historic shift in investor support for climate risk disclosure said Ceres.

The Exxon proposal specifically requests the company publish an annual assessment of the long-term impacts of technological advances and climate policies on its full portfolio of reserves and resources, including a portfolio resilience assessment that considers a low oil demand scenario consistent with the globally agreed upon 2-degree target.

"This is an unprecedented victory at Exxon for investors in the fight to ensure a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy," said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. "Climate change is a risk to the core business of ExxonMobil, and the burden is now on the company to show that it is responsive to shareholder concerns."

Earlier this month, over 280 investors with more than US$17 trillion in assets under management urged the G7 to maintain support for the Paris Agreement. Six have, Trump hasn't.

In anticipation of the Trump decision, the EU and China have said they will take the lead in a transition to a low-carbon economy.

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