Norway targets U.S. oil majors as climate activist resolution boosted at TotalEnergies

By Victoria Klesty, Benjamin Mallet and America Hernandez

(Reuters) -Pressure mounted on oil majors on Friday as Norway's giant sovereign wealth fund said it would vote against CEOs at Chevron and Exxon and support for a climate activist resolution at TotalEnergies' AGM surged to over 30%.

Together with peers BP and Shell, the companies face a vocal minority of investors demanding faster emissions cuts as a majority of shareholders supports management in reaping the benefits of record profits from oil and gas.

Norway's $1.4 trillion wealth fund, the world's single largest stock market investor, said on Friday it would vote against CEOs at Chevron and ExxonMobil and against management on emissions-related proposals at their meetings on May 31.

The fund, which owned a 0.86% of Chevron and 1.13% of Exxon as of the end of 2022, has previously voted against the reappointments of directors and said it would, as in previous years, support the Follow This climate activist resolution asking for faster emissions cuts at the U.S. firms.

However, it voted against Follow This at TotalEnergies' shareholder meeting on Friday, where French riot police clashed with protesters trying to block entry to the French company's annual general meeting (AGM).

Still, Follow This, which put forward its TotalEnergies resolution together with 17 institutional investors with a total of 1.1 trillion euros under management, got 30.4% of votes on Friday. The last time Follow This filed a resolution at the French group in 2020, it received 17% support.

Influential shareholder advisory ISS recommended voting in favour of Follow This at TotalEnergies' AGM, in contrast to the negative recommendations for the resolution at Shell and BP.

The jump in support for the activist resolution did not, however, derail TotalEnergies' company-sponsored climate resolution, which got almost 89% backing, echoing last year's result.

At BP, Follow This in April received slightly more support than last year at around 17% and Shell where support this month held steady at around 20%.

Follow This asks companies to align their targets to the U.N. Paris Climate Agreement goal of keeping warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Scientists say the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 43% from 2019 levels by 2030 to stand a chance of meeting that goal.

So far the world's biggest publicly traded, Western oil and gas companies have not come up with targets that foresee absolute emissions cuts, including planet-warming gases from the combustion of the fuels they sell, along those lines.

(Writing by Shadia Nasralla; editing by Barbara Lewis and Jason Neely)