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Climate change has become a major theme at general shareholders meetings of many Japanese companies being held this month, with shareholders proposing strict measures and companies touting their accomplishments on the issue.

Climate change-related shareholder proposals have been increasing recently in other countries.

In Japan, only one such proposal was submitted last year to companies other than power utilities, but such proposals have been submitted to financial institutions and trading houses this year.

Japanese nonprofit organization Kiko Network submitted a joint proposal with other environmental groups calling on Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. to create a provision in its articles of incorporation that would require it to disclose investment plans related to measures against global warming.

Kiko Network submitted a similar proposal to Mizuho Financial Group Inc. last year that was voted down but surprised the industry after garnering support from over 30% of shareholders.

“Financial institutions must invest responsibly,” Kimiko Hirata, director of the environmental NPO, said.

Hirata stressed the significance of the proposal forcing the board of directors to consider taking measures, while acknowledging the difficulty of gathering support from two-thirds of shareholders to change the articles of incorporation.

She added that much has changed since the organization’s proposal last year, noting that institutional investors in Japan and abroad have come to the organization asking for explanations on the content of the latest proposal.

Similarly, major trading house Sumitomo Corp. and packaging-maker Toyo Seikan Group Holdings Ltd. have received proposals demanding better information disclosure, from an Australian environmental group and an investment fund based in Hong Kong, respectively.

Meanwhile, the city of Kyoto submitted a proposal to Kansai Electric Power Co., calling for a halt to the establishment of a new coal-fired power plant.

Most corporations have opposed climate change-related investor proposals, saying that they have already taken appropriate measures.

Mitsubishi UFJ is seeking to gain investor understanding by declaring its goal of achieving effectively zero greenhouse gas emissions at the companies it has invested in by 2050.

In statements notifying shareholders of meetings this month, many companies listed their measures against climate change and on social issues.

According to Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, 309 companies have included such information in their notices, about twice as many as the year before.

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