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July 27, 2010
Investors Lead Way on Climate Change As Senate Fails to Act
by Robert Kropp
The US Senate abandons effort to pass meaningful legislation in a year when climate change-related
shareowner resolutions attract widespread support.
Last week, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, announced that the Senate had
abandoned plans to address legislation designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but would
instead attempt to pass a bill of much more limited scope.
Reports indicate that
the proposed bill would do little more than raise the liability cap for oil companies in the event
of oil spills, and provide incentives for homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their
Even the inclusion of a renewable energy standard, which would require that a
percentage of the nation's electrical power come form renewable sources—an aspect of proposed
legislation that seemed likely to lead to significant job growth—appears to be doomed to join a
cap-and-trade scheme as an abandoned legislative effort.
In the Huffing
ton Post, Mindy Lubber, President of Ceres,
wrote, "In a breath-taking act of historic and inter-generational irresponsibility, forty-one
Senators or more walked away from a win-win solution for our environment, our economy, and our
"We're fast running out of time," Lubber continued. "The action most
urgently recommended: Limit carbon emissions."
Even as the Senate was giving up on
meaningful climate change legislation, Ceres posted a press release detailing what it described as
"record results on climate change" by investors during the 2010 proxy season.
Ceres, 101 climate and energy-related resolutions were filed with 88 US and Canadian companies, an
increase of nearly 50% over last year. As an indicator of business support for climate change
legislation, "A record 51 resolutions were withdrawn after the companies agreed to positive climate
change and energy-related commitments," Ceres reported.
Among the 42 resolutions that went
to a vote, 16 received votes of 30% or more. The average vote in favor of the 42 resolutions was
24.6%, up from 21.7% last year.
A majority vote occurred at Layne Christensen, a resource
exploration and production company, where 60.3% of shareowners voted for a resolution calling on
the company to produce an annual report on environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG)
At Massey Energy, 53.1% of shares were voted in favor of a resolution calling for
quantitative goals for the reduction of GHG emissions. The embattled coal company actually reported
the vote as only 36.8% in favor, because it included 20.9 million abstaining votes as votes against
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