Electricity generation is the single largest source of energy-related CO2 emissions. Demand is set to increase but this must be matched by a significant reduction in emissions to keep the world on track to limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5°C. The sector is currently behind in preparing for a net zero future, which needs to happen sooner than other sectors to keep the wider transition to net zero on track. According to the IEA, energy companies should be targeting net zero by 2040 globally, but 2035 in advanced economies.
In 2020, Engie was the only European utility company that lacked a 2050 net zero emissions commitment, signalling failure to prepare for the transition and posing a material risk to its business. Lead investors identified this as an urgent issue for engagement with the company, which had resisted lead investor requests for some time, particularly on publishing a lobbying report.
The Climate Action 100+ Steering Committee wrote to the company in September 2020, asking Engie for an urgent commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. Some progress was made but this was considered insufficient. However, with a new CEO in post in October, a more robust response was expected to follow.
Lead investors stepped up the intensity of engagement in November 2020 through to February 2021, sending a second letter with the added weight of 22 additional investors, reiterating its request for a 2050 net zero emissions commitment and highlighting their intention to escalate to shareholder resolution if required.
Engie subsequently addressed some of investors’ other engagement asks, such as a commitment to phase out coal, but did not bring forward a commitment on net zero emissions. Lead investors were left with no choice but to hold the company accountable and filed a shareholder resolution in April 2021, requesting a carbon neutral company strategy which would put them on a path to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. Engagement continued after filing and in May 2021, the lead investors sent another letter, signed by a further 13 investors, which clarified what was needed for them to withdraw the resolution.
During its Strategic Update in May, Engie published its new climate strategy which included a commitment to net zero emissions by 2045, across all scopes. This went beyond the initial investor request and led to the withdrawal of the shareholder resolution. Engie’s CEO subsequently invited the lead and supporting investors to meet the Chairman to discuss the new strategy, reinforcing the critical role the leads are playing in the navigation of the company’s evolving business strategy.
Investors will continue to engage with Engie on delivery against its commitments, alignment with the Climate Action 100+ Net-Zero Company Benchmark and actioning the recommended focus company actions identified as investor interventions in the Climate Action 100+ global sector strategy on accelerating net zero electric utilities.
- September 2020: Climate Action 100+ Steering Committee requests net zero emissions by 2050 commitment.
- October 2020: Potential for escalation is voiced to Engie over issues, particularly the continued absence of net zero ambition and overdue production of a lobbying report. Meeting with the company is offered.
- November 2020: The IIGCC Lobbying Working Group sends a letter asking for final clarification on Engie’s intention to produce a lobbying report that meets shareholders expectations, with a deadline for replies.
- February 2021: Lead investors send follow up letter, signed by 22 additional investors, reiterating Climate Action 100+ request for a net zero emissions by 2050 commitment and noting intention to escalate to shareholder resolution if request is not addressed.
- April 2021: Lead investors file shareholder resolution requesting 2050 net zero emissions strategy.
- May 2021: Lead investors send letter, signed by 13 investors, clarifying requirements to withdraw the resolution. Engie announces commitment to net zero emissions by 2045, including all scopes. Shareholder resolution is withdrawn.
 For more information, read the Climate Action 100+ global sector strategy on accelerating the transition to net zero electric utilities: /approach/global-sector-strategies/electric-utilities/