Blackrock has revolted at agls annual meeting and called on australias largest energy company to hasten the closure of its coal-fired plants, in one of the first signs the worlds biggest asset manager is showing its teeth over climate concerns in the country.
Almost a fifth of votes cast by shareholders, including blackrock, supported the proposal, which was filed by the australasian centre for corporate responsibility (accr), and pushed for the closure dates of two agl coal-fired power stations to be brought forward.
Blackrocks backing came after it was lambasted for voting against two landmark environmental resolutions at australian oil companies woodside and santos earlier this year, despite chief executive larry finks warning that global warming represented a risk to markets unlike any previous crisis.
The $7.3tn asset manager, one of agls top five shareholders, said its support of the proposal at the energy groups meeting was intended to encourage the company in its efforts to proactively and ambitiously manage the climate risk in its business model.
As the worlds largest asset manager, blackrock has been under intense scrutiny over how it uses its influence to convince corporate boards to respond to climate change. it has faced repeated criticism over how it votes at annual meetings on environmental proposals.
In january, mr fink said the asset manager would take a tough stance on tackling global warming, including dumping some coal stocks and stepping up conversations with companies over their emissions. it has also begun voting against directors when concerned about how companies are responding to climate change.
Outlining why it supported the resolution at agl, blackrock said australias largest carbon emitters own analysis suggested it was possible to shut its coal-fired loy yang plant 12 years ahead of the current scheduled closure.
The proposal, and our support of it, affords the agl board and executives the discretion to manage that timing to ensure an effective and safe closure at the appropriate time, it added.
Blackrock also warned that if the loy yang plant was to operate until 2048 as planned at present, it would be more than 60 years old, which increased the risks of operational concerns in relation to reliability and safety.
Dan gocher, director of climate and environment at the accr, welcomed blackrocks support, while criticising domestic pension funds and asset managers for failing to back the resolution.
Far too many australian investors live in fear of blowback from a government committed to stalling progress on climate action, he said. increasingly, european and us investors see through the bluster and vote for what is in the best long-term interests of shareholders.
Agl also suffered a revolt on pay, with almost 46 per cent of votes cast against.
The company did not respond to a request for comment.