(Bloomberg) -- An investor-led push for major oil companies to set climate goals in line with the Paris agreement won support from a key proxy advisory firm for the first time, setting up a showdown at upcoming shareholder meetings.

Institutional Shareholder Services urged investors in Occidental Petroleum Corp. and refiner Valero Energy Corp. to back proposals to align the companies’ targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions -- including their customers’ -- with the Paris agreement, according to investor reports seen by Bloomberg. ISS is likely to issue the same recommendation for eight other oil companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., facing similar votes, said Mark van Baal, founder of activist investor group Follow This.

It’s the first time that ISS “doesn’t agree with an oil major’s claim that the company already has Paris-consistent targets,” van Baal said. Occidental and Valero didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. 

The ISS decision is significant because many investors follow its voting recommendations closely during proxy voting season. Its recommendation comes as major money managers such as BlackRock Inc. increasingly supported environmental proposals last year, and as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission weighs a new rule that would mandate that public companies disclose climate risks and carbon emissions. 

“Investors would benefit from additional information on interim steps the company is taking to meet its long-term net-zero by 2050 target and how it plans to allocate capital in line with that goal,” ISS said in its recommendation to Occidental shareholders. Occidental’s annual meeting is scheduled for May 6, while Valero’s is April 27.

Though Occidental in 2020 became the first major U.S. oil producer to aim for net zero emissions from everything it extracts and sells, the plan relies heavily on capturing carbon dioxide and burying it, a technology that’s so far been prohibitively expensive. Valero’s climate goals also rely on carbon capture. The companies are urging investors to vote against the climate resolutions.

The SEC has allowed more environmental and social proposals to go to vote this year after overturning a policy enacted under the Trump administration that made it easier for companies to exclude such resolutions from ballots. The agency has quashed 19% of resolutions that companies asked to block this season, compared with between 43% and 54% over the past four years, according to research firm Sustainable Investments Institute near Washington.   

Follow This and another shareholder group, Majority Action, have proposed that Occidental and other oil producers such as Exxon Mobil Corp. set stricter targets to reduce emissions and combat climate change. 


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