Santos, one of the largest oil and gas producers in Australia, has suffered a huge revolt by shareholders over its strategy on climate change.

At last week’s annual investor meeting, over 43% of Santos shareholders defied the board and backed a resolution to set harder emission targets.

The resolution was tabled by an ethical investment group (the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility) and has gained the highest support of any Australian shareholder resolution calling for lower emission targets.

Australian giant oil energy Santos

A second resolution, for Santos to review its industry associations and assess whether these climate positions were inconsistent, gained a 46% yes vote from shareholders.

While the resolutions were not officially put to the meeting as they hinged on the company’s constitution being amended, Santos chairman Keith Spence published the voting results for the sake of transparency. Yet, he stressed the company was already taking “industry-leading action” on emissions.

However, this action has been criticised, along with Santos’s assertion – that replacing coal with gas can curb emissions – dismissed would have limited impact on keeping global warming under 2 degrees.

Pressure on climate change has continued to mount during the coronavirus pandemic, even as the COP26 UN climate change conference, scheduled to be held in Glasgow this November, was postponed.

Activists are recognising that, with the pandemic forcing many businesses and governments to re-evaluate their strategies going forward, it presents a valuable opportunity to champion climate change goals.

María Mendiluce, interim CEO of the We Mean Business coalition, recently wrote in a blog that any long-term economic stimulus packages currently being put together should be developed with climate change objectives in mind.

“We cannot go back to business-as-usual and lock in old habits, pollution, spending and infrastructure that will inflict further harm on the very people, communities and economies that these stimulus packages seek to support,” wrote Mendiluce.

“The decisions governments make now will lock in the strategic direction of companies and economies for years to come,” she said. “Pairing economic recovery action with climate action at this critical moment will ensure that economies can recover stronger than before while simultaneously reducing emissions.”

Last Updated: 10 April 2020
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