Woodside shareholders reject company’s climate action plan in sign of investor discontent

Woodside shareholders reject company’s climate action plan in sign of investor discontent
  • PublishedApril 25, 2024

Woodside shareholders have rejected the company’s climate plan in a sign of investor discontent.

Nearly 60 per cent of shareholders gathered at the oil and gas giant’s annual general meeting in Perth this afternoon voted down its climate transition action plan.

The result is not binding on the company but the fact that 58.4 per cent of shareholders rejected the plan shows substantial dissatisfaction with that element of Woodside’s direction.

Chairman Richard Goyder said he was disappointed but thanked shareholders for their engagement.

“The board will reflect closely on the result and continue to engage with shareholders as we progress our strategy,” he said.

The last time the plan was put to a shareholder vote, in 2022, it was approved by a narrow majority of 51 per cent.

CEO Meg O’Neill said Woodside was keen to understand shareholder concerns, but emissions reductions took time.

“The world wants reliable energy, they want cheap energy, they want green energy, and they want all of those three things tomorrow,” she said.

“We have a business where a number of the assets we’re operating today were designed in the late 1970s and early 1980s … of course we want emissions to be lower from these assets, but we can’t do that overnight.”

Meg O'Neill and Richard Goyder sitting and speaking to the media
Woodside’s Richard Goyder and Meg O’Neill addressing the media after shareholders rejected the company’s climate plan. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

Mr Goyder said the company had a “job to do to convince people of the merits” of its climate plan.

“[Stakeholders] would like to see more in terms of commitments and we’re wary of making commitments because we want integrity in what we say — if we make a commitment, we want to meet that commitment,” he said.

“We’re not going to [include] things in our climate transition action plan which we don’t think we can meet.”

Mr Goyder said he was aware shareholders opposed to the plan needed to “exhibit to their stakeholders, superannuation fund members and the like, that they’re holding Woodside to account in terms of our scope 1 and 2 emissions and our plans on scope 3 emissions.”

What’s in the climate plan?

In the company’s most recent edition of the climate transition action plan, published earlier this year, Woodside said it had reduced its emissions by 12.5 per cent from its starting base — an increase of 1.5 per cent from the year before.

The report said that put Woodside on track to meet its emissions reduction targets of 15 per cent by 2030, 30 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2050.

But climate campaigners have been critical of the company’s reliance on offsets to achieve those targets, rather than reducing emissions directly — although Woodside says it is working on that.

It comes as Commonwealth figures showed Western Australia’s emissions are climbing above 2005 levels.

A number of environmental groups say the company’s future plans, including the ongoing development of its $12 billion Scarborough LNG project as part of the Burrup Hub — the nation’s largest oil and gas development — will slow efforts to address global emissions and climate change.

Aerial picture of large LNG cargo ship loading at jetty off the red landscape of the Pilbara
Environmental groups have raised concerns about Woodside’s planned development of Scarborough.(Supplied: Woodside)

Woodside says the $16 billion project would generate more than 3,200 construction jobs in WA and boost the nation’s economy.

But it’s also expected to emit millions of tonnes of carbon over its lifetime.

“Preventing climate breakdown requires a rapid phase out of fossil fuels,” Conservation Council WA executive director Jess Beckerling said outside the meeting, flanked by climate protesters.

“Woodside is ignoring the science and putting all of us at risk with its plans to develop the Burrup Hub.”

Protesters disrupt meeting

Dozens of activists gathered at the entrance of Perth’s Crown complex to greet meeting attendees with banners, drumming and chants.

A group of protesters holding a large yellow sign saying "Woodside's profit".
Protesters outside Crown Casino, where the Woodside Energy AGM was held. (AAP Image: Aaron Bunch)

“Woodside’s plans on climate are bogus. They have no plans on climate,” Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said.

“They need to get with other companies around the world that are getting serious about solving the climate problems and that means renewables, not gas.”

Bosses defend plan

Earlier, Mr Goyder and Ms O’Neill defended the company’s record during the meeting.

Woodside Energy CEO Meg O'Neill stands at a lectern delivering a speech.
Meg O’Neill says the company is determined to play its part in addressing climate change. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

“I give you our commitment that we will set goals and make decisions informed by the available science, in line with our capital allocation framework, and with our commitment to energy security front of mind,” Ms O’Neill said.

“We will also keep listening and responding to you, our investors, as we continue to develop our strategy to thrive through the energy transition.”

Ms O’Neill said while the company was focused on gas as a transition fuel, it was also working on small-scale projects like a hydrogen refueller south of Perth to develop the company’s skill set in other areas.

As part of its most recent climate plan, Woodside also announced a target to invest $5 billion USD into “new energy products and lower carbon services” by 2030.

About $335 million USD has been invested so far to help reduce its scope three emissions, which are emitted when its products are used by its customers.

The meeting was disrupted by two groups of climate protesters and had to be paused for a few minutes.


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