BP to face green critics at shareholder meeting

Oil giant BP faces a showdown with environmental campaigners over controversial Canadian oil sand projects when it holds its annual shareholder meeting today.

Oil giant BP faces a showdown with environmental campaigners over controversial Canadian oil sand projects when it holds its annual shareholder meeting today.

The blue chip company is also under fire once more over its pay policies for top bosses in what looks set to be an eventful meeting in London’s Docklands.

A celebrity-backed campaign has succeeded in getting enough investors to put a resolution on the agenda over the Canadian oil sands issue.

Names including comedian Alistair McGowan and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke have lent their support, with more than 5,000 people petitioning their pension providers and other large shareholders to back the resolution in a vote.

Other oil firms are also in the firing line, with Royal Dutch Shell due to put the same resolution to a vote at its annual general meeting next month.

Activist protesters are expected to target the meetings, following a “Party at the Pumps” demonstration staged by around 150 environmental activists at a BP petrol station on Shepherd’s Bush Green, west London, over the weekend.

Co-ordinated by responsible investment charity FairPensions and Co-operative Asset Management, the resolution has been lodged to focus debate on BP’s plans to extract oil from the tar sands of Canada.

The campaigners want further disclosures on the projects and their environmental impact, with concerns in particular surrounding BP’s strategic assumptions about future oil demand and carbon emissions.

Niall O’Shea, head of responsible investing at Co-op Asset Management, said: “BP’s projections on profitability and carbon intensity look surprisingly rosy compared to industry averages and independent analysis. We wish them well.

“But investors deserve to know how these projections are arrived at.”

It is thought unlikely that the resolution will receive enough support to be passed, although the move has already forced the subject into the spotlight.

BP has defended its Canadian tar sands project, which is a joint venture with Canadian counterpart Husky Energy.

It said the oil sands were “one of the largest known oil resources, second only to Saudi Arabia, with the potential to sustain substantial production levels for many decades”.

BP also claimed that action was being taken to mitigate some of the harmful environmental effects and emissions from the oil sands.

The group may likewise be put on the defensive over executive pay plans after lobby groups PIRC, the pension fund consultant, and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) both raised concerns.

BP largely kept salaries on hold in 2009, but the firm’s recent annual report revealed that chief executive Tony Hayward still landed a 41% hike in his total pay package.

Mr Hayward took home £4 million in salary, cash bonus and share awards last year, up from £2.85 million in 2008.

However, the firm reported a steep fall in profits in 2009, down 45% to $13.96bn.

PIRC is urging investors to oppose BP’s report, calling the payouts “excessive” and hitting out at a lack of transparency in BP’s performance targets for long-term incentive scheme payouts.

The ABI, whose members control around 13% of the stock market, has meanwhile issued an “amber” top alert over BP’s pay plans, drawing investor attention to potential worries over BP’s discretionary use of share-based bonus awards.

But the head of BP’s remuneration committee, DeAnne Julius, has argued that the group’s bonus targets were based around safety, staff and performance indicators - nearly all of which she said were exceeded.

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