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Investors Push SEC to Require Stronger Climate Risk Disclosure by Fossil Fuel Companies

Image Credit: Flickr/Rennett Stowe

Sixty-two institutional investors representing nearly $2 trillion in assets have called for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to push for better disclosure by oil and gas companies of critical climate change-related business risks that will “profoundly affect the economics of the industry.”

In a seven-page letter to the SEC, organized by the nonprofit sustainability advocacy group Ceres, investors noted that the current low price environment is providing a stress test for the fossil fuel sector of the risks it is likely to face due to climate change, citing a number of “carbon asset risks” — including expanding carbon-reducing regulations, growth of renewable energy and weakening oil demand — that are not sufficiently disclosed in their financial filings.

Given these climate-related trends, Ceres says investors are especially concerned about the industry’s excessive capital spending on high-cost, carbon intensive projects such as Arctic drilling, ultra deepwater drilling and Canadian oil sands projects.

The letter, which outlines specific shortcomings in annual financial filings by ExxonMobil, Chevron and Canadian Natural Resources, asks the SEC staff to “closely scrutinize” reporting on carbon asset risks by oil and gas companies and address the problem in “comment letters” to issuers.

Investors’ efforts to engage oil and gas companies have escalated over the past year, as concerns have deepened about strategic planning and risk management in the industry, according to Ceres.

Signatories to the letter include major global investors in the United States and Europe, including public pension funds and state treasurers, foundations, asset management firms and religious groups, such as: CalPERS, the Connecticut Office of the State Treasurer, Legal & General Investment Management, Calvert Investments, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Most of the investors signing onto the letter are participating in the Carbon Asset Risk Initiative, through which 75 investors managing more than $4 trillion in assets have called on 45 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies to assess and disclose how their business plans fare in a world turned upside down by unchecked climate change.

According to the letter, “obtaining more information from fossil fuel companies about their capital expenditures and related risks” is critical to investors working to integrate climate risks into their investment strategies.

In September, nearly 350 global institutional investors representing over $24 trillion in assets called on government leaders to provide stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing that helps redirect investment commensurate with the scale of the climate change challenge, as well as develop plans to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.

Last month, shareholder advocacy organization As You Sow released its 10th annual Proxy Preview report, detailing the record-breaking 433 social and environmental shareholder resolutions filed so far this proxy season, with political spending and climate change driving most of the activity.


Mike Hower is Marketing Communications Manager at Carbon Lighthouse. With a background on both sides of the communications podium — as a journalist and strategic communicator — he is committed to helping organizations address climate change through sustainability innovation. Previously,… [Read more about Mike Hower]


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