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PNC Emissions Resolution to Stay, SEC Says

A shareholder resolution proposing that PNC Financial assess the greenhouse gas emissions in its lending portfolio as well as its exposure to climate change risk must remain on the proxy ballot, according to a ruling by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC decision reverses previous rulings and poses broader implications for resolutions seeking information about the financial sector’s contribution and response to climate change, said Boston Common Asset Management, the company that submitted the shareholder resolution. Co-filers of the shareholder resolution include Domini Social Investments, Friends Fiduciary Corp., Sisters of Mercy and Walden Asset Management.

Prior to filing the resolution, some investor groups held discussions with PNC for a number of years in an attempt to pressure the company to improve its policy and corporate reporting, BCAM said.

The shareholder resolution takes the position that banks and other financial institutions contribute to climate change through their so-called financed emissions — the greenhouse gas footprint of the companies and projects that banks support with loans, investments and other financial services. BCAM and the other co-filers say a bank’s financed emissions dwarf its other climate impacts and expose it — and its investors — to significant risk.

The ruling follows the commission’s 2010 adoption of climate disclosure guidance, which clarified the responsibility of corporations to include climate issues in annual SEC reporting.

PNC is also the focus of an activist campaign protesting the company’s involvement with firms engaged in a coal mining practice known as mountaintop removal, BCAM said.

A global climate investment index released last December by the Asset Owners Disclosure Project found the majority of funds don’t recognize the investment challenges that climate change presents. Not one US firm ranked in the top 10 of the index, which measures how the world’s biggest investors, including pension funds, are managing climate risk.

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