He said shareholder resolutions were only one form of that, with litigation also on the cards, as has been evident in the ACCR’s own case against Santos over its clean energy claims and recent court decisions against ExxonMobil in the US and Shell in Europe.
The selection of board directors would also increasingly come under scrutiny, with the head of sustainability committees at Woodside and Santos, namely Ann Pickard and Peter Hearl, respectively, in the firing line when they come up for re-election this year, Mr Gocher said.
“It absolutely shouldn’t come as any surprise to those companies that that escalation will continue to happen, and it will happen across a broad range of fronts.”
Market Forces said the need for the resolutions had only increased over the past year, with both Woodside and Santos pursuing or completing mergers that will sharply increase their oil and gas production and moving forward with billions of dollars of new projects.
It noted that last year’s AGMs saw 19 per cent of Woodside shareholders and 13 per cent of Santos shareholders support resolutions to wind down production and return capital to shareholders. The resolutions were symbolic as they hinged on prior resolutions to change the respective companies’ constitutions.
“Woodside and Santos have not only rejected investors’ demands for alignment with global climate goals, they’ve actually moved in the complete opposite direction,” claimed Market Forces campaigner Will van de Pol.
In response to the resolutions, Santos restated its commitment to achieving net zero emissions for scope 1 and scope 2 emissions by 2040 and noted it would release its fifth climate change report in the coming months, which would outline its climate transition action plan. That would show how its allocation of capital aligns with the Paris Agreement, it said.
It said its advocacy is consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and said that investment in new supply is essential to provide secure and affordable energy for consumers during the switch to low-carbon fuels.
“The lack of investment in new oil and gas fields over the last few years has caused a supply crunch and record high prices that hurt the most vulnerable in our global community,” Santos said.
Woodside, which has yet to advise the ASX of shareholder resolutions, has a net zero target for direct emissions by 2050, which it is maintaining even with its proposed $41 billion merger with BHP Petroleum.
But Market Forces pointed out that the vast majority of emissions associated with the oil and gas producers are generated when their oil and gas is burned, involving scope 3 emissions that are not covered by their targets.
Santos, which in December completed a $22 billion merger with Papua New Guinea’s Oil Search, also noted its booking this week of carbon storage resources to support carbon capture and storage, deemed by the International Energy Agency as a critical technology to reach net zero emissions.