Greenpeace protesters at BP's annual shareholders meetingGreenpeace protesters were among activists pressing BP to pass shareholder resolutions to address climate change. Photo credit: Greenpeace UK via Twitter
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By Karen Savage

Climate change-related proposals met with mixed results at British Petroleum’s annual shareholder’s meeting on Tuesday.

A proposal directing BP to adopt a business strategy in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement passed with an overwhelming 99 percent of the shareholder vote. But a second, stronger proposal asking the company to reduce emissions from the use of its products was defeated.

BP’s annual meeting was held in Aberdeen, Scotland, where activists set off an alarm and interrupted the meeting shouting, “It’s a crime scene!” They demanded the company end all new oil and gas projects, including plans to drill in the Arctic. The meeting came a day after climate activists in Denver and London blocked entrances to company headquarters to make similar demands.

The shareholder resolutions were proposed by Climate Action 100+, a group of 300 investors with more than $33 million in assets.

The successful resolution directs BP to disclose the estimated carbon intensity of its products, its methodology for considering the climate impact of new projects and how the company will set and measure emissions targets to keep global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius, as outlined in the Paris Agreement. It also links executive pay to the company’s ability to meet its climate targets.

“Today’s vote signals clear and uncompromising investor intent that BP take immediate and critical action to reduce its climate change emissions,” said Danielle Fugere, president of As You Sow, a nonprofit that advocates for corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy.

Bob Dudley, group chief executive for BP, said the company is concerned about emissions and climate change and will work to expand renewable energy, but also relied on familiar industry talking points to justify the continued extraction of oil and gas.

“There are billions of people on the planet—and more to come—who need access to energy to help improve their living standards,” said Dudley, repeating a common refrain from the industry in justifying the status quo.

“It’s why we’re focused on advantaged oil—the most competitive barrels that can be produced at low cost or high margin. It’s why we’re growing our gas production—a vital fuel for the future that’s affordable, abundant and cleaner-burning than coal in power generation,” Dudley said.

To align with the goals of the Paris Agreement, however, BP must reduce current investments in oil and gas development and adopt clean energy production, Fugere said. She praised the passage of the first resolution, but said by refusing to address emissions from its products, it is impossible for BP to completely align with the Paris Agreement. She said BP’s refusal to reduce what are known as Scope 3 emissions, which result from the use of its products, falls short of the recent commitments from Royal Dutch Shell.

“Unfortunately, the company refuses to follow Shell’s lead in taking responsibility for product emissions,” Fugere said.

“While Shell has only agreed to relative reductions in ‘Scope 3’ emissions, not absolute reductions as needed to achieve the Paris goal — BP has so far refused to address emissions from its products at all, a position that makes Paris compliance impossible to achieve,” said Fugere, who said the time for action is short and business-as-usual plans are  unacceptable.

Shell pledged last year to reduce the net carbon footprint of its energy products and while it has gone further than other oil companies by agreeing to targets involving the use of its products, it still has no plans to back away from its core business.

Seven environmental and human rights organizations in the Netherlands filed suit against the company in April, contending that a reduction of the company’s carbon footprint is not the same as a reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions. The plaintiffs allege Shell knows it will not reach the goals as outlined in the Paris Agreement and contend the company is measuring reductions using a methodology that could allow it to meet its stated targets without reducing its carbon emissions.

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