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Church of England calls for climate voting debate before miner BHP's AGM

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Church of England calls for climate voting debate before miner BHP's AGM
FILE PHOTO: Visitors to the BHP (formerly known as BHP Billiton) booth speak with representatives during the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) annual convention in Toronto, Ontario, Canada March 4, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren   -   Copyright  CHRIS HELGREN(Reuters)
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LONDON (Reuters) – The Church of England Pensions Board urged shareholder advisors on Wednesday to support a resolution asking the world’s biggest listed miner BHP to leave groups which lobby for policies inconsistent with global climate change limitation goals.

The board, which manages the retirement funds of clergy and other staff, has joined some other BHP shareholders in the resolution for BHP’s London AGM next week to increase pressure over the issue and wants more shareholders to support it.

“Corporate funding of lobbying, fuelled with shareholder funds, is continuing at pace,” Adam Matthews, head of the board’s ethics and engagement, said.

The resolution recommends “memberships of industry associations be suspended where their advocacy demonstrates overall inconsistency with the Paris Agreement’s goals”.

The international agreement in 2015 aims to restrict global warming and the resolution’s authors say lobbying for the use of coal is inconsistent with this.

BHP <BHP.AX> <BHPB.L> says it is committed to cutting emissions and promoting sustainable mining and backs the Paris Agreement. It said it is reviewing its membership of industry groups and has withdrawn from some of them but believes engagement with some of them helps to promote best practice.

The pensions board said proxy voting advisory firms ISS and Glass Lewis, who act for institutional investors, had not recommended its clients support the resolution and called for a meeting with them and the investors to discuss the issue.

“The decision by the proxy voting advisors ISS and Glass Lewis not to recommend support for the co-filed shareholder resolution raises serious questions about how investors can receive advice that enables them to meet their fiduciary duties to navigate the financial risks posed by climate change.”

Asked to comment, Aaron Bertinetti, Glass Lewis’ senior vice president, research and engagement said investors focusing only on an adviser’s approach to a proposal rather than “the extensive analysis, reasoning, expertise and engagement such advisers conduct” would raise concerns about their own fiduciary duties to those they represent.

ISS did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Last month BHP said its board would recommend shareholders oppose the resolution at its annual general meetings in London on Oct. 17 and in Sydney on Nov. 7.

(This story refiles to correct typo in paragraph two)

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; additional reporting by Carolyn Cohn; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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