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First Energy Bows to Shareholder Pressure to Cut Emissions

FirstEnergyUtility FirstEnergy, one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the US, has responded to shareholder demands and agreed to reduce its carbon emissions, the New York Times reports.

The company — the eighth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the US according to the Greenhouse 100 index — says it will study and report on what it can do to meet President Barack Obama’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Obama outlined a broad climate plan in June that aims to restrict carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants and boost investment in renewable energy. The plan has been met with support from environmental NGOs and criticized by the coal industry, which says the rules to cut carbon pollution at new and existing power plants will hurt the economy and increase electricity prices.

Shareholder advocacy group As You Sow and the New York and Connecticut pension funds have agreed to withdraw a shareholder resolution filed for FirstEnergy’s annual meeting this year, the NYT reports.

Shareholder scrutiny and demands related to sustainability have increased in recent years.

In October 2013, a group of 70 investors with more than $3 trillion of collective assets under management launched a campaign called the Carbon Asset Risk initiative to pressure fossil fuel companies to calculate the financial risks that climate change poses to their business plans.

The group sent letters to 45 of the world’s top oil and gas, coal and electric power companies requesting they share the information by their 2014 shareholder meetings.

Investors filed 110 shareholder resolutions this proxy season related to sustainability issues and climate change with 94 US companies, according to business nonprofit Ceres, which helped coordinate the shareholder filings.

Overall, investors withdrew more than 40 of the 110 resolutions after the companies responded affirmatively to their specific requests, Ceres says.

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