Exxon Investors Vote for Change in a Watershed Moment for the Climate

Statement of Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense Fund

May 26, 2021
Amy Morse, (603) 568-5541, amorse@edf.org

In a milestone win for the climate and a breakthrough for investor accountability, ExxonMobil shareholders today elected at least two of the four ExxonMobil board candidates nominated by activist investors, with the election of the remaining seats still too close to call. In response, Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp issued the following statement:

“The business case for the clean energy transition has never been clearer. Today’s vote sends the unmistakable signal that climate action is a financial imperative and leading investors know it. This is a watershed moment for the oil and gas industry and leading investors: It is no longer tenable for oil companies like ExxonMobil to resist calls to align their business strategies with a decarbonizing economy.

“This moment is not just about ExxonMobil or even about energy companies. It is about major asset managers and other big investors stepping up, making their voices heard, and walking the walk — connecting the dots between their climate rhetoric and their actions. Credit goes to BlackRock, Legal and General, CalSTRS and others for aligning their proxy voting with their climate pledges.

“This kind of mainstream investor support for climate action is a game changer in the battle to urgently reduce emissions, minimize financial risk and protect communities. The message is clear – climate change is a board level priority because the response is existential for carbon intensive companies. And climate action brings financial rewards.

“As we saw today, doing right by shareholders means assembling a qualified board that’s fit to help companies rise to the challenges and opportunities of the net zero transition.

“Now, Exxon’s new directors – and the entire board – have an important responsibility to help the company transform its approach to the climate crisis and energy transition. The test of the enhanced board will be its ability to get ExxonMobil aligned with a net zero transition in the months to come – with a credible business strategy backed by climate targets, dollars, and policy advocacy.

“Four rapid-fire events make this a watershed moment:

“First, the International Energy Agency on May 18 issued an urgent call for no new oilfield development and rapid transition away from petroleum-powered transportation.

A day later, Ford unveiled its new all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck — the first zero-emission version of America’s most popular vehicle, and the first that won’t be needing ExxonMobil’s products.

And today brought two more: A Dutch court ruling that Royal Dutch Shell must slash greenhouse gas emissions much farther and faster than it had planned. And the resounding vote for change at ExxonMobil.

“When the history of how we turned back the worst impacts of climate change is finally written, these rapid-fire events will loom large.”

Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund 

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