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BP shareholders reject climate activist resolution but support grows

FILE PHOTO: Logo of British Petrol BP is seen e at petrol station in Pienkow

By Shadia Nasralla and Ron Bousso

LONDON (Reuters) -An activist resolution urging BP to set tougher climate targets was rejected by shareholders on Thursday, although it enjoyed more support than last year after the energy company rowed back on plans to cut oil and gas output.

The resolution filed by activist group Follow This, which the board urged voters to oppose, won the support of 16.75% of votes at the annual general meeting, according to preliminary results.

That compared with 14.9% last year but was below the 20.6% backing it received in 2021.

The meeting in London was interrupted several times by climate protesters, with several being carried out by security.

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BP Chief Executive Bernard Looney in February rowed back on plans to slash oil and gas output and carbon emissions, angering climate activists but spurring a share price surge.

The company, which reported a record profit of $28 billion in 2022 on the back of soaring energy prices, still aims for emissions to reach net zero by 2050.

"We are delighted with the overwhelming support we received in the votes today... People won't always agree with every decision we make - we respect that and their engagement and challenge make us better," Looney said.

Follow This founder Mark van Baal said the result was "a strong signal".

Speaking at the AGM, van Baal said Looney was "misleading shareholders" by claiming that BP's strategy was aligned with U.N.-backed targets set in a Paris conference in 2015 to slash global emissions by the end of the century.

The directors' remuneration report got support from 81.95%, down from 94.36% last year.

Looney's 2022 pay packet more than doubled to around $12 million on the back of bumper profits amid spiralling energy prices, while BP's emissions were broadly unchanged.

Shareholders also approved the re-appointment of Chairman Helge Lund by a majority of 90.43%, lower than previous years, after several investors said they would oppose it to protest BP's energy transition strategy.

"Oil and gas will be needed for a long time to come," Lund told the audience.

Scientists say the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by around 43% by 2030 from 2019 levels to have any hope of meeting the Paris Agreement goal of keeping warming well below 2C above pre-industrial levels.

(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla and Ron Bousso; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Susan Fenton)