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Business News/ News / Investors Rebuke Woodside’s Climate Strategy as Chairman Spared
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Investors Rebuke Woodside’s Climate Strategy as Chairman Spared

Investors rejected Woodside Energy Group Ltd.’s climate strategy in an advisory vote as Australia’s largest energy company attempts to trim emissions while also expanding production of oil and natural gas.

Investors Rebuke Woodside’s Climate Strategy as Chairman SparedPremium
Investors Rebuke Woodside’s Climate Strategy as Chairman Spared

(Bloomberg) -- Investors rejected Woodside Energy Group Ltd.’s climate strategy in an advisory vote as Australia’s largest energy company attempts to trim emissions while also expanding production of oil and natural gas.

A total of 58.4% of investor votes cast at an annual meeting Wednesday in Perth opposed the company’s transition action plan in the non-binding poll, the company said in a filing. Chairman Richard Goyder, who had faced a challenge to his reelection, was backed to continue in his role by 83.4% of ballots.

“The board will reflect closely on the result," as it continues engagement with shareholders on issues including its climate plans, Goyder told the meeting. Woodside is targeting a 15% reduction to its net equity Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

Funds including the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and Australia’s Aware Super had voted against Goyder’s reappointment and rejected the proposals for emissions reduction. Other shareholders backed directors but opposed the green plans.

Woodside’s climate strategy has been criticized as too slow or unclear, and some investors have raised objections to Goyder’s handling of engagement on the issue. Climate activists also oppose Woodside’s push to advance a $24 billion slate of expansion projects, including the flagship Scarborough liquefied natural gas development in Western Australia.

“We still have some ongoing concerns about Woodside’s plan to be net zero by 2050," Shaun Manuell, head of Australian equities at AustralianSuper, the country’s largest pension fund and a holder of more than 3% of the producer, told a Parliamentary hearing Monday. “Based on that we’ve decided to vote against it and we’ll continue our discussions with the company."

Woodside expects gas demand to rise 50% over the next decade, propelled by rising consumption in Asia. That bullish outlook helped spur the company’s recent failed attempt to merge with smaller rival Santos Ltd. in a tie-up that would’ve created one of the Asia-Pacific region’s biggest LNG producers. 

The outcome of the Wednesday ballot on the climate plan is non-binding, though Woodside insists that it responds to investor feedback when developing its policies. Final results were scheduled to be lodged with the Australian Securities Exchange later Wednesday, Goyder said.

Goyder, who will step down later this year as Qantas Airways Ltd. chairman after investor and customer unrest, told the Woodside event he had carried out more than 80 meetings on climate change since the start of last year. 

Read More: Qantas Chairman to Quit Next Year to Repair Airline’s Brand

“All plans and ideas are improved when they are subject to scrutiny and constructive feedback, and this has been the case for Woodside over the past 12 months," he told the annual meeting. Goyder confirmed he intended to remain in his post and had “never been more energized and excited."

In addition to its 2025 target, Woodside is aiming for a 30% cut to its direct net equity emissions by 2030, according to a February presentation. The measure reflects the company’s share of jointly owned operations, includes the use of offsets and is relative to an annual average over 2016 to 2020.

The company also aims to take investment decisions by 2030 on projects able to lower Scope 3 emissions by 5 million tons a year. That pollution — mainly from the burning of the fossil fuels it sells — is by far its biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions, at about 72.8 million tons in 2023, according to the company. 

(Updates with final ballot results in second paragraph)

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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Published: 25 Apr 2024, 12:37 AM IST
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