Citing Fracking and Climate, Shareholders Question Fossil Fuel Investments
By Kieran Cooke
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Shareholders in the U.S. are showing growing concern about their investments in companies exposed to climate change-related risks, according to new data released by Ceres.
The annual round of corporate shareholder meetings—referred to in the U.S. as the proxy season—has recently ended. Ceres says that at those meetings a total of 110 shareholder climate change and environmental sustainability-related resolutions were filed with 94 U.S.-based companies. Issues included concerns about fracking, flaring and both the environmental and financial risks of further exploitation of fossil fuel reserves.
Some of the U.S.’s largest public pension funds were among those filing resolutions, including the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the New York State and New York City Comptrollers’ Offices. Ceres estimates that along with other large institutional investors these groups manage funds worth in excess of $500 billion in assets.
“The strength of this year’s proxy season shows unwavering investor concern about how companies, especially energy companies, are managing the profound climate-related risks of fossil fuel production, including traditional and unconventional oil and gas extraction,” says Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres.
“Investors saw especially important progress in tackling flaring, hydraulic fracturing [fracking] and methane emission impacts, all key contributors to climate change,” Lubber continued.
A resolution questioning the activities of Continental Resources, a large oil producer, was withdrawn after the company agreed to reduce or eliminate flaring at its well sites. Similar resolutions filed with three companies involved in the booming hydraulic fracturing industry—EOG Resources, Ultra Petroleum and Cabot Oil & Gas—were also withdrawn after management agreed to increase disclosure of their activities, including steps being taken to reduce the environmental risks of fracking.
“Companies are responding to the growing calls for transparency and accountability,” says the head of a major investment fund. “Without qualitative reporting, shareholders cannot be assured that a company is taking real steps to minimize these risks and protect shareholder value.”
According to Ceres data, the number of investor resolutions relating to climate change and environmental sustainability has increased significantly in recent years—from around 30 a decade ago to more than 100 last year.
While some companies are responding to investor concerns on climate change and the environment, others are more hesitant.
Shareholder resolutions asking two of the U.S.’s biggest coal companies—CONSOL Energy and Alpha Natural Resources—to disclose how their extensive coal reserves might be affected by proposed new carbon regulations were defeated.
Recent analyses have indicated that if targets to limit the rise in global temperature are to be met, then vast amounts of proven fossil fuel reserves need to remain unexploited.
Such reserves can account for between 50 and 80 percent of the market value of coal, oil and gas companies. If regulations are brought in to support meeting targets on limiting global temperatures, those reserves could become "stranded" underground, having the knock-on effect of exposing companies and investors to significant financial risk.
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
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