In what may be the most cataclysmic day so far for the traditional fossil-fuel industry, a remarkable set of shareholder votes and court rulings have scrambled the future of three of the world’s largest oil companies. On Wednesday, a court in the Netherlands ordered Royal Dutch Shell to dramatically cut its emissions over the next decade—a mandate it can likely meet only by dramatically changing its business model. A few hours later, sixty-one per cent of shareholders at Chevron voted, over management objections, to demand that the company cut so-called Scope 3 emissions, which include emissions caused by its customers burning its products. Oil companies are willing to address the emissions that come from their operations, but, as Reuters pointed out, the support for the cuts “shows growing investor frustration with companies, which they believe are not doing enough to tackle climate change.” The most powerful proof of such frustration came shortly afterward, as ExxonMobil officials announced that shareholders had (over the company’s strenuous opposition) elected two dissident candidates to the company’s board, both of whom pledge to push for climate action.
By Bill McKibben. New Yorker. May 26, 2021.