This spring’s shareholder season, in the run up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in November, is incredibly important for shaping corporate action on climate for years to come. As the largest asset manager in the world, BlackRock has tremendous power in its shareholder votes at corporate AGMs.
People around the world are watching to see if BlackRock follows through on its recent climate commitments by voting in favor of climate-critical shareholder resolutions and against corporate board members who have not taken enough action to stop the impending climate chaos.
BlackRock’s CEO, Larry Fink, has made some big promises to use BlackRock’s leverage to force corporations to act on climate change. Will he keep those commitments and back up his words with voting actions at these shareholder meetings?
Here’s a climate-friendly vote that BlackRock took recently that went very under-the-radar:
BlackRock voted against the longest-serving director at Woodside Petroleum Ltd (an Australian oil and gas company) and cited “concerns about the comprehensiveness of the company’s current climate risk disclosure” as the rationale for doing so.
This is what we need to see from BlackRock this shareholder season, in line with Larry Fink’s past promises.
The question, however, is whether BlackRock will remain consistent when applying this approach in its votes with the bigger players – or if voting in a climate-positive direction when dealing with the little guys is a way to provide themselves cover so it doesn’t have to hold the bigger companies accountable.
Key votes we’re watching over the next several weeks are at Wells Fargo, Barclays and Duke Energy:
Wells Fargo – April 27
Wells Fargo has been the world’s third largest financier of fossil fuels over the last five years, with $223 billion in lending and underwriting over 2016-20. It is the world’s leading funder of fracked oil and gas.
Wells Fargo did commit to net zero financed emissions by 2050, but has set no targets, and has no exclusion policies related to tar sands, LNG, fracking or offshore fossil fuel.
Recommendation to BlackRock: Vote against director Chairman Charles H. Noski, for failing to implement plans consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5ºC.
UPDATE: BlackRock voted in support of Noski:
Barclays – May 5
Barclays is the biggest financier of fossil fuels in Europe, funding $145 billion in fossil fuels since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016.
The bank has provided more finance for coal mining and coal power than any other UK bank since 2015, and its funding for ‘extreme’ fossil fuel sectors – fracking, tar sands and Arctic oil and gas – increased by 32% in 2020.
Recommendation for BlackRock: Vote for the shareholder resolution directing Barclays to set and publish targets to phase out support for fossil fuel projects and companies that are consistent with the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement.
UPDATE: BlackRock abstained from voting:
Duke Energy – May 6
Duke Energy is the largest US generator of electricity, the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide and the second largest user of coal to generate electricity among investor-owned US electric utilities.
Duke committed to net zero only in its electricity production by 2050, not covering close to all its emissions.
According to a Sierra Club analysis, Duke has committed to retire only 11% of its coal generation by 2030, and will remain one of the largest coal generators among investor-owned electric utilities. And Duke has the largest gas generation expansion plans of any investor-owned utility.
Duke Energy also has a largely negative influence on climate change policy in the US, and has lobbied against emissions standards and the transition of the US energy mix.
Recommendation for BlackRock: Vote against director Chair/CEO Lynn Good and Independent Lead Director Michael G. Browning for failing to implement plans consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5ºC.