Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Proposal Calls for Divestment from Fossil Fuel Holdings
In the wake of the international publicity the Nebraska Peace Foundation -- the 501 (c) 3 arm of Nebraskans for Peace -- generated with its shareholder resolution at the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Meeting on April 30th, the foundation has submitted a follow-up resolution for consideration at the forthcoming May 6, 2017 meeting in Omaha.
Earlier this year, in both the 2015 Annual Shareholder Letter and his remarks at the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting of Shareholders itself, Warren Buffett did the world and the financial community a great service by acknowledging both the reality and the threat of climate change. In fact, he did so not just once, or in passing — he made this message an explicit focus.
In follow-up, a shareholder proposal has been formally submitted for a vote at the 2017 Annual Shareholders Meeting (proposal text attached below). In it, the Nebraska Peace Foundation asks Mr. Buffett to extend his public and corporate leadership by committing to divest Berkshire Hathaway of its fossil fuel holdings over a 12-year period.
Such a commitment would not endanger Berkshire Hathaway’s near-term profitability; instead, it would send a timely and urgently needed message to the international community that — to avoid the worst effects of climate disruption — the world must earnestly undertake a shift toward renewable energy sources.
In addition to the important signal a Berkshire Hathaway transition of this sort would send throughout the world, the personal support Mr. Buffett could lend to the adoption of a revenue-neutral, gradually rising carbon fee would be instrumental in leveling the business playing field and galvanizing renewable energy investment by governments and industry around the globe.
In Mr. Buffett’s February shareholder letter, he coined the term “Noah’s Law” to describe the risk posed by climate change, stating: “… if there is only a 1% chance the planet is heading toward a truly major disaster and delay means passing a point of no return, inaction now is foolhardy. Call this ‘Noah’s Law’: If an ark may be essential for survival, begin building it today, no matter how cloudless the skies appear.”
On June 28, 2016, the leaders of 31 major American scientific organizations echoed Mr. Buffett’s concerns, jointly stating in a letter to Congress:
Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. This conclusion is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and the vast body of peer-reviewed science.
There is strong evidence that ongoing climate change is having broad negative impacts on society, including the global economy, natural resources, and human health.
For the United States, climate change impacts include greater threats of extreme weather events, sea level rise, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, heat waves, wildfires, and the disturbance of biological systems. The severity of climate change impacts is increasing and is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades.
To reduce the risk of the most severe impacts of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions must be substantially reduced. In addition, adaptation is necessary to address unavoidable consequences for human health and safety, food security, water availability, and national security, among others.
As Mr. Buffett sagely advised in his comments to shareholders, to have hope of survival, we not only need to begin building an ark — we need to start today. Through its Proposal, the Nebraska Peace Foundation asks Mr. Buffett to be our nation’s ‘Noah’. Renowned internationally as an investment ‘oracle’ and social philanthropist, and outfitted with the expertise and ingenuity of Berkshire Hathaway’s own BH Energy, Mr. Buffett is uniquely poised to lead the world in the construction of a clean energy future.
In this season of Advent, we patiently wait for Mr. Buffett to take up the call.
Contacts: Tim Rinne 402-730-6675, firstname.lastname@example.org, Mark Vasina 402-890-6958, email@example.com, Loyal Park 402-489-6662, firstname.lastname@example.org