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Shareholders fail to pass pitch for Ford to outline plan to dial back emissions

Shareholders failed to pass a resolution on May 10 for Ford Motor Co. to report on whether it will stick with its plan to reduce its fleet's greenhouse gas emissions even as the Trump administration is moving to weaken related fuel efficiency standards.

The resolution by the shareholder advocacy group As You Sow garnered only 12.8% shareholder support at Ford's annual meeting on May 10, Ford said in announcing preliminary results. But by As You Sow's calculations, if the Ford family's direct holdings are excluded from the count, 24% of independent shareholders voted for the measure, the group said in an email. General Motors Co.'s shareholders are slated to vote on the same proposal by As You Sow in June.

Climate advocates say drastic cuts in transportation emissions will be needed to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which aims to slow global warming. The U.S. transportation sector in 2016 overtook power as the largest greenhouse gas emitter, although both together still account for about 60% of U.S. emissions.

Power utilities are also keeping tabs on the direction car manufacturers head with their plans for rolling out electric vehicles versus fossil-fuel burning models given that some utilities are looking for ways to capture a share of the still relatively small demand for electric car charging infrastructure. Some experts have also suggested that widespread electrification of the transportation sector could boost relatively stagnant electricity demand growth.

For its part, Ford said it believes in climate change and that the company has a role to play "to stabilize" carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and at levels consistent with the goals of the Paris accord. "We already have charted a course for our future that includes investing $11 billion to put 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicle models on the road by 2022 as well as the responsible development of the self-driving car," Ford said in an emailed statement.

But groups like As You Sow say that Ford has been sending mixed signals, including in its recent announcement that it would drop most of its passenger car line-up and pursue larger vehicle models.

The vote comes as a growing number of companies are facing environmental resolutions in this spring proxy season and on the same week as car manufacturers are slated to meet with President Donald Trump in the White House on vehicle efficiency standards.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in April announced plans to roll back emissions and fuel-efficiency standards for model years 2022-2025, after which California and 16 other states sued to stop the agency from changing the requirements. The EPA in the federal spring unified agenda on May 9 indicated it plans to issue a proposed rule on light-duty vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency standards in June and finalize the rule in February 2019.