May 25th, 2022 - Today, on the day of BlackRock’s annual general meeting, a group of 22 climate scientists and academics have penned an open letter to BlackRock Vice Chairman and global executive committee member Philipp Hildebrand.
In the letter, the scientists urge Hildebrand to help align BlackRock’s business with a 1.5°C pathway. “As scientists and academics, we are writing this letter to tell you directly that the facts are clear: new coal, oil, and gas development is incompatible with limiting warming to 1.5°C,” the letter
reads. BlackRock recently argued
that investments in increased fossil fuel production will be necessary, a position the asset manager reiterated during today’s shareholder meeting.
Despite facing several questions from shareholders asking about BlackRock’s alignment with global emissions reduction efforts, executives avoided acknowledging the scientific consensus that expanding fossil fuel production is inconsistent with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C at today’s AGM.
BlackRock recently released a memo
outlining that it was unlikely to support shareholder proposals that ask companies to change their business models, stating that its support for climate shareholder proposals is likely to drop compared to 2021 as a result. With approximately $10 trillion in assets under management, BlackRock is the world’s largest institutional investor. It is also a leading shareholder in climate destructive companies, topping the list
of investors in the companies expanding their coal production.
“As one of the largest shareholders at many of the companies driving the climate crisis, BlackRock needs to be taking a firmer position advocating for energy transition. Your recent memo on proxy voting represents a problematic backslide. BlackRock is too big to evade scrutiny: no longer can you say one thing and do another,” the letter’s authors state.
The scientist letter is available under this link
and in full below.
About the BlackRock’s Big Problem campaign:
BlackRock’s Big Problem is a global network of NGOs, social movements, grassroots groups, and financial advocates that are pressuring asset managers like BlackRock to rapidly align their business practices with a climate-safe world. Find more information about our network here
Scientist letter to Philipp Hildebrand:
Dear Mr. Hildebrand, Vice Chairman and Global Executive Committee member of BlackRock,
In March 2021, BlackRock made a commitment
to do its part to limit global warming to 1.5°C, in accordance with the Paris Agreement. BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink has publicly agreed
with the scientific consensus that in order to meet the Paris Agreement goal, human-produced emissions need to decline by 8-10% annually to achieve planetary “net zero” by mid-century.
Despite these statements, BlackRock is still a leading investor in the world’s heavy emitters, including in companies expanding their coal, oil, and gas production
, such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Petrobras and Glencore. BlackRock should be using all the tools in its toolbox, specifically engagement and proxy voting, to support a rapid and managed transition towards a net zero pathway. As one of the largest shareholders at many of the companies driving the climate crisis, BlackRock needs to be taking a firmer position advocating for energy transition. Your recent memo on proxy voting
represents a problematic backslide. BlackRock is too big to evade scrutiny: no longer can you say one thing and do another.
As scientists and academics, we are writing this letter to tell you directly that the facts are clear: new coal, oil, and gas development is incompatible with limiting warming to 1.5°C. The following is a direct quote from the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report’s Working Group 3
“Estimates of future CO2 emissions from existing fossil fuel infrastructures already exceed remaining cumulative net CO2 emissions in pathways limiting warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot (high confidence). … Decommissioning and reduced utilization of existing fossil fuel installations in the power sector as well as cancellation of new installations are required to align future CO2 emissions from the power sector with projections in these pathways (high confidence).”
The devastating impacts of the climate crisis are harming people around the world, from deadly heat waves and floods, to fires, droughts, crop failure, extreme storms and rising sea levels — as well as destroying entire ecosystems, such as coral reefs and the Amazon. Expanding fossil fuel production guarantees extreme events will become both more frequent and more severe, with immense costs in terms of human lives, livelihoods and economies. The only responsible course of action is to do everything in our power to stop fossil fuel expansion and further emissions. This applies to us, as scientists, but even more to you, since your company is investing in companies pursuing and enabling fossil fuel expansion.
As a major stockholder of many firms worldwide, BlackRock can have an impact on their decisions. At the annual general meeting of Credit Suisse
on April 29th, Mr. Hildebrand, you personally had an opportunity to demonstrate that your and BlackRock’s climate goals are more than mere greenwashing, empty words to distract from your actions. Instead, you failed to support a shareholder resolution that asks Credit Suisse to reduce its exposure to fossil fuel assets.
Worse, BlackRock has argued for expansion of fossil fuel extraction to address the energy crisis emerging from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This war, rather than providing justification for fossil fuel expansion, demonstrates that these energy sources do more than threaten the stability of a livable planet. These fuels fund anti-democratic governments and their war efforts, and make civil wars and interstate conflicts more likely. Moreover, the volatility of their prices and dependency on their supply endanger economic stability of both producing and consuming countries. The only energy expansion necessary is one that combines cheap, reliable, and stable renewable generation with efficiency measures such as building retrofits to bring demand down.
Mr. Hildebrand, you and BlackRock face a choice. For the stability and credibility of your company, we urge you to align your company’s investment emissions trajectory to be consistent with 1.5°C, and to outline a clear path to eliminate fossil fuels. We await your actions, not just statements, at the upcoming BlackRock Annual General Meeting.
- Prof Julia Steinberger, Institute of Geography and Sustainability, Faculty of Geosciences and Environment, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.
- Kjell Kühne, Leave it in the Ground Initiative (LINGO), Germany and School of Geography, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
- Prof Eric Jondeau, Department of finance, Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.
- Prof Rich Pancost, School of Earth Sciences, Cabot Institute for the Environment, University of Bristol, UK
- Prof Michael E. Mann, Director of Earth System Science Center, Penn State University, U.S.A.
- Dr. Peter Kalmus, UCLA JIFRESSE
- Dr Stuart Capstick, Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations, Cardiff University, UK.
- Prof. Dr. Felix Creutzig, Technical University Berlin, Germany
- Dr. Yamina Saheb, Institute of Political Science, Paris, France
- Dr. Céline Guivarch, CIRED, Paris, France
- Dr. Kimberly Nicholas, Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies, Lund, Sweden
- Prof. Richard Betts MBE, Chair in Climate Impacts, Global Systems Institute, University of Exeter, UK
- Cengiz Akandil, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich
- Stefano Battiston, Department Banking and Finance, University of Zurich and Department of Economics, University of Venice
- Prof Cédric Durand, Department of History, Economics and Society, University of Geneva
- Prof Philippe Thalmann, School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
- Prof. Sonia Seneviratne, Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
- Prof Marc Chesney, Faculty of Economics, University of Zurich
- Dr. Cornelia Krug, Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich
- Dr. Veruska Muccione, Department of Geography, University of Zurich
- Dr. Martin Schlaepfer, Institute of Environmental Sciences, University of Geneva
- Rupa Mukerji, Director Advisory Services, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation