Investors seek Exxon's take on effects of warming limits

ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York's comptroller and some other investors have asked federal regulators to require a vote on a shareholder proposal that would force Exxon Mobil (XOM) to disclose how its business will be affected by a 2-degree target limit on global warming.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, trustee of New York's $178.3 billion pension fund for public workers, joined with the Church of England's investment fund and others in filing the proposal. The New York retirement fund has about a $1 billion investment in Exxon Mobil.

They request Exxon Mobil's annual assessments of how its portfolio and oil and gas reserves would be affected by warming limits endorsed by 195 nations in December. They call for lower carbon emissions and reductions in the burning of fossil fuels.

Exxon Mobil, in a January letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission chief counsel, requested assurance that the federal regulator won't take any enforcement action if the shareholder resolution is omitted from proxy materials for the shareholders' meeting. The company's lawyers said it qualifies for exclusion under the agency's rules because it is "inherently vague and misleading" and Exxon Mobil "has already substantially implemented the proposal."

The oil company says that since 2007 it has included proxy carbon costs in business planning that reflect the climate-related policy decisions it anticipates governments will make.

DiNapoli said he needs to know how the company's "bottom line will be impacted by the global effort to reduce emissions and what the company plans to do about it."

In a letter to the SEC this week, the fund's lawyer said the proposal is neither vague nor already substantially answered by the company, citing a United Nations estimate that achieving the 2-degree goal "requires net zero global emissions to be attained by 2100."

The comptroller's office says other oil companies, including Shell and BP, have agreed to publicly describe how they will be affected by lower greenhouse gas emissions in response to similar shareholder proposals.