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QBE shareholders snub fossil fuel reduction bid

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An overwhelming 91.9% of proxies voted against fossil fuel exposure reduction targets at today’s QBE annual general meeting in Sydney.

A shareholder resolution on the matter was not required as shareholders voted against proposed amendments to the company constitution that would have allowed for the item to be raised during the meeting.

The two interlinked resolutions were lodged by climate campaign group Market Forces and wealth manager Australian Ethical Investment.

“We will keep making the case for QBE to reduce its exposure to oil and gas as well as coal. We think that represents a holistic approach to managing climate risk,” Market Forces campaigner Pablo Brait told insuranceNEWS.com.au today after attending the meeting.

“It shows that major investors like super funds still have not taken a big picture approach to this [issue].”

He believes QBE’s recently announced plans to withdraw from coal-related businesses when the next financial year starts may have weakened support for the non-renewables exposure resolution.

The resolution wanted the insurer to disclose short, medium and long-term targets to reduce investment and underwriting exposure to coal, oil and gas assets. The targets must meet the Paris Agreement climate goals and be published annually starting with the 2019 annual report.

“I think that QBE’s move on coal definitely convinced some investors that they didn’t need to support the resolution. I’m disappointed with that attitude because oil and gas combined actually produce more emissions than coal and so you can’t deal with climate risk without dealing with oil and gas,” Mr Brait said.

“We need to discuss the next step.”

QBE Chairman Marty Becker in his address at the meeting had urged shareholders not to support the climate resolution.

He says the insurer has made “progress” in addressing the climate challenge, which includes the recent launch of its Group Energy Policy.

“That policy makes clear that due to the high emissions intensity of thermal coal, we have determined to target zero direct financial investment in the thermal coal industry by July 1 2019,” Mr Becker said.

“We are also reducing our exposure to thermal coal projects in our underwriting portfolio.

"These are important steps that align with our support for the objectives of the international climate agreement developed at the 2015 Paris Conference, which aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C.”