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Climate

Exxon's War on Activist Investors

On shareholder climate proposals, green steel, and reducing food waste

Exxon's War on Activist Investors
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: An ice storm has snarled traffic in parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma • Rescue teams are working in freezing temperatures to rescue victims of a landslide in China • Half of Australia's states are under heat warnings.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Storm Isha slams UK and Europe with hurricane-force winds

Storm Isha battered the United Kingdom and parts of Europe with hurricane-force winds and heavy rain over the weekend. More than 200,000 homes lost power and hundreds of flights were canceled or rerouted. At one point a tornado watch was issued for the whole of Ireland and parts of Scotland. The storm also hit parts of France and the Netherlands, and about 68,000 customers were without power in Amsterdam. Germany is expected to hit a new wind power record just one month after breaking its previous record in December. The U.K. usually expects up to nine named storms in a year; Isha is the region’s ninth named storm in just five months.

A home flooded by Storm Isha in Carlisle, U.K.Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

2. Exxon hits climate activist-investors with lawsuit

ExxonMobil filed a lawsuit against environmental activists who are using a shareholder resolution to push the oil giant to more aggressively cut its planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. The company accused the shareholders from activist-investor groups Follow This and Arjuna Capital of having an “extreme agenda” and wants their proposal removed from the ballot so it cannot be voted on at the annual investor meeting. The lawsuit is “highly unusual,” explained Kevin Crowley at Bloomberg Green, because large companies typically have to appeal to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) if they want to block individual shareholder motions. A legal judgment in Exxon’s favor “could have a chilling effect on shareholder petitions,” said the Financial Times.

Until recently, companies were allowed to exclude shareholder proposals that demanded climate timelines and targets. The SEC nixed this rule in 2021 and since then the number of environmental social shareholder proposals voted on has increased by 125%.

3. Ford to cut F-150 Lightning production

In case you missed it: Ford is cutting production of its electric pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning, to 1,600 models per week, down from 3,200. The company announced the news late last week, saying it wanted its output to better match market demand. Quartzsuggested this was code for “people don’t like electric trucks as much as we thought they did.” And indeed, Ford is ramping up production of its gas-powered Bronco and Raptor vehicles. Kelley Blue Book analysts told the FT that the EV slowdown is real, but followed that up by saying that “the EV market in the U.S. is still growing.” Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares urged automakers to avoid triggering a “race to the bottom” by reducing prices to boost sales, and singled out Tesla.

All this push-pull is happening at the same time that the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to firm up stringent new emissions rules that would result in nearly 70% of all new vehicles in 2032 being electric. Major automakers say the rules are unreasonable, Reutersreported, while environmentalists, Democratic lawmakers, and – naturally – Tesla want to see them go ahead.

4. H2 Green Steel raises $5.17 billion

The company promising to build the world’s first large-scale green steel manufacturing plant has raised $5.17 billion in new funding, bringing its total to about $7 billion. H2 Green Steel is building a plant in Sweden that can make steel using hydrogen produced from renewable electricity, eliminating the need for coal and reducing manufacturing emissions by 95%. The company hopes to have the plant up and running by 2025 and produce 5 million metric tons of green steel by 2030. As Canary Medianoted, “that’s just a fraction of the nearly 2 billion metric tons of steel produced globally each year,” but still, the factory “would be a milestone for the push to decarbonize steel.” H2 says it has already sold half the initial yearly volumes of steel it will make. The steelmaking industry produces somewhere between 7% and 9% of global human-caused carbon emissions.

5. AI could help grocery stores reduce food waste

Grocery stores are reportedly starting to use artificial intelligence to help reduce food waste. The inefficent chore of finding, pricing, and positioning older products takes up a lot of workers’ time, costs supermarkets revenue, and results in wasted food. And since food waste accounts for between 8% and 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, selling more food before it goes bad is an admirable quest. A Danish company called Too Good To Go has developed AI software that can help stores optimize discounts on food items that are nearing their expiration date to improve sales. International supermarket chain SPAR is already using the tool.

THE KICKER

In China, customers who buy luxury EVs sold by BYD brand Yangwang get a special “delivery ceremony” that includes balloons, flowers, and a car key wrapped in a gift box.

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Jessica  Hullinger profile image

Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

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Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images, Peak Energy, Natron Energy

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THE TOP FIVE

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Donald Trump holding the IRA.
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