In 2005, the scientific academies of 11 nations, including the U.S., stated that, “The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. It is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term reductions in net global greenhouse gas emissions.”
A 2004 Conference Board report declared that, “scientific consensus that the climate is changing is growing steadily stronger over time; Corporate boards will be increasingly expected to evaluate potential risks associated with climate change; and, the global economy will become less carbon-intensive over time…The real questions are what the pace of the transition will be and who will be the winners and losers.”
U.S. power plants are responsible for nearly 40 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, and 10 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
In June 2005, a majority of U.S. Senators voted in favor of a resolution stating that, “…Congress should enact a comprehensive and effective national program of mandatory, market-based limits on emissions of greenhouse gases that slow, stop, and reverse the growth of such emissions…”
In 2004 and 2005, AEP, Cinergy, DTE Energy, TXU, and Southern Company issued comprehensive reports to shareholders about the implications of climate change for their businesses. AEP stated, “some initial mandatory reductions of greenhouse gas emissions are likely in the next decade…”
Nine northeastern states are developing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which aims to significantly reduce emissions from electric power companies and develop a market to trade emissions allowances. California plans to reduce the state’s emissions of greenhouse gases to 2000 levels by 2010, 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
In February 2005, the Kyoto Protocol took effect, imposing mandatory greenhouse gas limits on the 148 participating nations. Companies with operations in those nations must reduce or offset some of their greenhouse gas emissions. For example, companies with operations in Europe can make reductions using the European emissions trading program, where CO2 has regularly traded for more than $20 per ton.
The California Public Utilities Commission now expects all utilities to add a greenhouse gas cost of $8/ton of CO2 in all long-term power contracts, and the Colorado Public Utilities Commission agreed that Xcel Energy should assume a $9 per ton cost for a new coal power plant.
Dominion is proposing to build several thousand megawatts of coal-fired power generation with an estimated investment of several billion dollars, which will emit millions of tons of CO2 per year.
RESOLVED: Shareholders request a report [reviewed by a board committee of independent directors] on how the company is responding to rising regulatory, competitive, public pressure to significantly reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions from the company’s current and proposed power plant operations. The report should be provided by September 1, 2006 at a reasonable cost and omit proprietary information.