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AGL shareholders demand coal plant closure

19 September 2019

19 September 2019

AGL shareholders today sent a strong message to Australia’s biggest climate polluter, with more than 30% voting in favour of a resolution demanding the company reduce emissions in line with the Paris climate goals.

Only twice before has a climate change-related shareholder proposal received more than 20% support in Australia, and this is by far the highest vote for a resolution seeking Paris-aligned emission reduction targets in this country.

As people from across the world prepare to attend Climate Strike activities tomorrow, the need for AGL to reduce its emissions and phase out coal power couldn’t be clearer.

AGL owns and operates three coal power stations, and plans to run its NSW Bayswater plant until 2035 and Victoria’s Loy Yang A until 2048. But the science is clear: if we are to meet the climate goals of the Paris Agreement, wealthy countries like Australia need to phase out all coal power by 2030.

This case was put to AGL and its investors at today’s annual general meeting on behalf of Market Forces and the shareholders we worked with to propose the resolution.

Market Forces Legal Analyst, Will van de Pol, said of the result:

“Today’s vote was an historic demonstration of investor support for real climate action from an Australian company. Key investors are finally putting their money where their mouths are, using their voting power to demand Australia’s biggest climate polluter brings its business into line with the Paris climate goals.

However, AGL’s vehement opposition of the resolution belies the company’s claimed support for the Paris Agreement. Its plan to manage transitional climate change risk amounts to relying on others to do far more than their fair share of the heavy lifting, while AGL continues with business as usual. 

AGL has had more than enough time to bring its business plans into line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Institutional investors must recognise that AGL has no interest in playing its part in the transition to a low carbon economy and divest from AGL along with any other company that is undermining action to limit global warming to 1.5°C.”

Climate change and AGL’s management of the risks it poses was a common theme of questions from the floor at the meeting. AGL was challenged over the claim its plans are “not inconsistent” with the Paris climate goals, which is based on analysis of a scenario that is “Potentially consistent with a 2-degree scenario,” but “Dependent on international NDC’s [Nationally
Determined Commitments under the Paris Agreement] and action in Australia’s other economic sector”.

Prominent Barrister Noel Hutley SC stated back in March that diligent company directors ought now be assessing the impact on their business of a 1.5°C warming outcome. But AGL today confirmed this assessment hadn’t yet taken place, raising concerns over the risk of climate litigation.

AGL also proved a let-down when it came to the climate strikes planned around the world on 20 September. While 1200 Australian businesses have allowed their employees to attend the rallies, AGL’s CEO Brett Redman told shareholders that AGL staff would have to take a day of annual leave if they wanted to join.

A project AGL has been copping criticism for in Victoria is the proposed LNG import terminal at Crib Point on Westernport Bay. Several shareholders called out AGL’s lack of their prized “social license” when it came to this project. Carol from the Knitting Nannas, who defeated AGL’s attempts to exploit coal seam gas near Gloucester, expressed the Gloucester community’s solidarity for those resisting the Crib Point terminal.

Another resolution was on the agenda for this year’s AGM, calling on AGL to introduce pollution controls on its remaining coal power plants, which were otherwise creating a massive health risk in the Latrobe and Hunter Valleys. Dan from the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility challenged Chairman Hunt over how many deaths due to air pollution AGL would be comfortable with.