Exxon investors clear path for climate expert on board, defeat other resolutions

DALLAS – The showdown between Exxon Mobil and climate change activists ended mostly in defeat for shareholders who backed measures to steer the company away from fossil fuels and toward a carbon-constrained world.

At Exxon Mobil’s annual meeting in Dallas on Wednesday, investors rejected four climate-related proposals but passed one measure that could make it easier for minority shareholders to nominate someone to the company’s board. Investors rejected a specific proposal to put a climate expert on the board, but the approval of the so-called proxy access measure could mean minority investors could nominate one anyway.

Exxon Mobil’s board will weigh how it will respond to the non-binding shareholder votes at its next meeting in July, including trends it sees in climate-related votes, Exxon Mobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson told reporters after the shareholder meeting.

Seventy-nine percent of the shareholders voted against putting a climate expert on Exxon Mobil’s board, 81 percent  voted down the proposal to support the Paris climate accord, and 61 percent opposed the resolution for the company to report on how climate change affect its operations.

The shareholder votes against the climate change resolutions came amid fierce criticism at the meeting from environmentalists and activist investors who argued the Irving-based oil giant isn’t run by executives with expertise on climate issues.

“This is the biggest risk to the company’s business, not to mention everybody on the planet,” said Father Michael Crosby, a Catholic priest from Milwaukee.

Exxon Mobil had opposed all the measures related to climate change.

“The reality is there is no alternative energy source known on the planet or available today to replace the prevalence of fossil fuels in the global economy,” Tillerson said during the meeting. “The world is going to have to continue using fossil fuels, whether they like it or not.”