• Reuters, Jiji

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Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group shareholders on Tuesday defeated a proposal for the bank to align its business with global targets on climate change, dealing a win for the board over investors pushing for more action on the environment.

Activist investors in Europe and the United States trying to halt climate change have successfully compelled companies to divest their fossil fuel holdings, but the tactic has failed so far in Japan. This is the fourth time since 2020 a so-called shareholder climate resolution has been defeated after being brought before a Japanese listed company.

Japanese boards have benefited from the backing of domestic institutional investors that tend to defer to management.

Mitsubishi UFJ is the nation’s biggest lender and backs numerous coal and fossil fuel projects.

A Mitsubishi UFJ spokesperson confirmed via email that the resolution failed during its annual general meeting, having secured about 23% of the shareholder vote.

Mitsubishi UFJ’s board opposed the resolution, saying the “essential content” of the proposal had “already been incorporated into the company’s management strategies” with a recent carbon neutrality pledge and other policy changes.

Nongovernmental organizations Kiko Network and Rainforest Action Network offered the resolution supported by a number of shareholders — including EOS at Federated Hermes, which focuses on sustainable investing.

“While we welcome the recent updates to the company’s policies and the net zero commitment for 2050, we do not believe these are sufficiently aligned to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” wrote Sachi Suzuki, associated director for engagement at EOS at Federated Hermes, in an email.

The 2015 Paris Agreement requires countries to curb carbon emissions enough to keep average temperature rises to within 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial levels, to avert the worst effects of climate change.

Mizuho Financial Group was the first Japanese listed company to face a climate resolution, with shareholders last year voting it down. In the last two weeks, Sumitomo and Kansai Electric Power have fended off similar resolutions.

Many other companies listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange held general shareholders’ meetings Tuesday, with the latest business year having ended in March for a total of 628 companies, or 27% of all TSE firms.

A major issue at a meeting of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (Tepco) shareholders was the firm’s plan to release treated radioactive water from its disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the sea.

Tepco President Tomoaki Kobayakawa stressed that the company would “comply with safety standards” when releasing the water, which includes radioactive tritium. He also said that Tepco would work to prevent unfounded rumors related to its release.

A Tepco shareholder proposed that the company set up a council with residents of Fukushima Prefecture, home to the nuclear plant, for discussions on how to dispose of the treated water, but the proposal was voted down.

Tepco’s nomination of Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, former chairman of Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp., as its chairman was approved.

An unprecedented triple meltdown occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 plant after it was damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

At a meeting of ANA Holdings Inc. shareholders, President Shinya Katanozaka apologized for the company’s plan to pay no shareholder dividend for the current business year ending in March 2022.

The parent of All Nippon Airways has reported its worst-ever consolidated net loss for its latest business year, with air travel demand battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We aim to regain profitability in the current year by continuing to work on reducing costs,” Katanozaka said.

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