SEC Forces Exxon to Bring Climate-Friendly Accounting to Shareholder Vote
In a key win, the Oakland-based non-profit advocacy group, As You Sow defeated ExxonMobil's attempt to suppress an innovative, first of its kind shareholder resolution. The resolution asks Exxon to report its energy resources in an energy-neutral metric—BTUs—in addition to the traditional "barrels of oil equivalent" standard. Establishing a climate-friendly measure of energy reserves is a key step in incentivizing management, and the market, to support the transition to a clean energy economy.
“We are pleased the SEC sided with shareholders concerned with climate risk," said Danielle Fugere, As You Sow's president and chief counsel. “Exxon must allow shareholders to vote on this first step on the path toward clean energy. Broad support will give management the latitude to develop a diverse and profitable low carbon business plan, while maintaining 100 percent BTU energy replacements."
In response to Exxon's SEC bid to stop the resolution from being voted on by shareholders, As You Sow successfully argued that, “... in a rapidly decarbonizing economy, fossil fuel companies must develop climate change-responsive business models" and one possible path is to transition into energy companies not dependent on carbon intense, climate damaging commodities.
Exxon currently accounts for its energy assets in “barrels of oil equivalent." As You Sow noted in its SEC reply that this accounting measure discourages a low carbon transition by linking the calculation of a company's assets, and therefore its value, to carbon based-metrics.
The resolution proposes reporting company energy resources neutrally, by category, so that all resources—including solar, wind, biofuels, geothermal and other renewables—will be accounted for as BTUs and valued. This metric decouples Exxon and its shareholders from oil's declining profitability, its escalating climate damage and Exxon's decreasing ability to economically replace its oil reserves.
Shareholders seek Exxon's leadership in beginning the inevitable transition to becoming a diversified energy company able to compete in a decarbonizing economy.
As You Sow is simultaneously filing a petition with the SEC to change its reporting requirements to an energy neutral metric, which will free the oil industry as a whole from oil-dependent financial valuation.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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