Sunday, February 22, 2009

Canadian oil producer targeted by social investors

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has been added to a Climate Watch list by Ceres, a network of influential U.S. investors and environmental groups.

The Calgary-based company has refused to meet with investors on the issue of climate change, and, unlike other oil companies, has not made any renewable energy investments, according to Ceres. Ethical Funds filed a resolution with Canadian Natural Resources in 2007 requesting that it disclose its climate risks, but the company has not responded to the resolution.

"Leadership is what is required to address the manifold risks associated with oil sands extraction", said Bob Walker, vice president, sustainability at Ethical Funds. "We remain hopeful that Canadian Natural Resources Limited will respond to the increasing investor interest in the region and begin to disclose and dialogue with us on the risks and solutions in Canada’s oil sands."
Companies on the Climate Watch list include coal companies, oil and power producers and other businesses that advocates believe are not adequately dealing with climate-related business impacts, whether from physical changes, emerging climate regulations or growing global demand for low-carbon technologies and services. The updated list includes Southern, Massey Energy, Consol Energy, Ultra Petroleum, ExxonMobil, General Motors and Standard Pacific, as well as Canadian Natural Resources and Chevron. "These climate watch companies are ignoring a major business trend that will influence their competitive positioning for years to come," said Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres.

Canadian Natural Resources and Chevron were targeted for extensive investments in Canada's oil sands region, where carbon-intensive extraction technologies are being used to produce more than one million barrels of oil each day, Ceres said in a press release.

A record 63 global warming resolutions have been filed with 56 U.S. companies and one Canadian company in this year's proxy voting season. The resolutions, which seek greater disclosure from companies on their financial exposure and response strategies to climate-related business trends, were filed by some of the largest public pension funds in the U.S., as well as labour, foundation, religious and other institutional shareholders, which collectively manage more than US$1.9 trillion in assets. The shareholder filings are coordinated by Ceres and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a group of faith-based investors.

"Companies in every industry, especially energy sectors, must assess and mitigate climate change risks," said New York City Comptroller William Thompson Jr., whose office oversees $115 billion in pension fund assets. “Investors require full and transparent disclosure of the actions companies are taking to address the risks and opportunities of climate change, so that they can make informed investment decisions."

"Despite the unrelenting poor economic news, we know that taking care of our environment is also taking care of the world's economy," said Jack Ehnes, Chief Executive Officer of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), the second largest public pension fund in the U.S. which own shares in virtually all of the companies targeted with shareholder resolutions. "We can’t be distracted by short-term concerns at the expense of meaningful action to mitigate the impacts of climate change."

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