“But the reality is, particularly as you move toward renewables… projects are just not large enough and there’s just not that many of them to take on the amount of capital that the energy industry needs. There’s not enough opportunities to deploy capital and governments are reducing subsidies in the areas because many of these technologies are still not commercially robust.”
Woodside implored shareholders to vote down the climate resolutions at its meeting on Thursday, saying it had a 2050 net-zero emissions ambition for its own operations and pointed out that its natural gas exports were helping to displace higher-emissions fuel sources in Asia such as coal-fired power.
Investor concern has been building in Australia and around the world about the role of gas under Paris goals to limit global warming. Supporters of gas say it is a “transition” fuel with less emissions than coal, while critics say it remains a heavy source of emissions and believe its role in keeping global warming well below 2 degrees is limited.
The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), which lodged the motions, described the record support from Woodside shareholders as a “breakthrough moment” for action on climate change in Australia.
“The call for companies to set target on Scope 3 emissions is now supported by more than 50 per cent of shareholders in Australia’s largest oil and gas company … a striking number in the absence of board support,” ACCR director of climate and environment Dan Gocher said.
Mr Coleman said Woodside shareholders had indicated that their support of the resolutions were not intended to be “binding” but rather were intended as “guidance” for the company. “Climate change is a large issue with many of their shareholders at this point in time, so it was appropriate for them to ask that Woodside provide more information about how we are going about meeting our climate change commitments,” he said.
The resolutions do not compel the company to act as they depended on a separate motion to amend the company’s constitution, which did not succeed. But the results were disclosed to investors in the “interests of transparency”.
Emma Herd of the Investor Group on Climate Change, representing Australian and New Zealand institutional investors with $2 trillion of assets under management, said Australia’s oil and gas producers were “now clearly at risk of falling behind” their European counterparts in establishing plans to diversify their businesses and set targets in line with the Paris agreement.
“The sizeable investor votes in favour of climate change resolutions at the Woodside and Santos annual general meetings are a reminder that investors are deeply concerned about the systemic threat global warming poses to sustainable returns,” she said.