The majority (86 per cent) of Imperial Oil Ltd. investors voted to defeat a shareholder resolution that the organization adopt a target to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

However, the vote held during the Calgary-based company’s virtual annual meeting exposes a rift between its parent U.S. giant Exxon Mobil Corp. — which owns 69.6 per cent of Imperial — and its other shareholders, as the company noted 58 per cent of the shares not held by Exxon were voted in favour of the resolution.

Read: Imperial Oil urging investors to vote against Bâtirente’s net-zero emissions motion

Aequo Shareholder Engagement Services, acting on behalf of Quebec group retirement system Bâtirente, had argued that Imperial’s current 2023 emissions reduction target is a step in the right direction but that it’s also important to have a long-term strategy.

Its motion would have required Imperial to join energy companies including BP, Cenovus Energy Inc., ConocoPhillips Co., Enbridge Inc., Shell and Total in setting a long-term emissions reduction target.

During the virtual meeting, Brad Corson, Imperial’s chief executive officer, said the board recommended voting against the proposal because, although it supports initiatives to control global warming, it’s “premature” to set targets before it knows how to reach them. He said Imperial is focused on its current goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 10 per cent by 2023, relative to 2016 levels.

Read: Bâtirente sets new climate commitment for 2025

“Imperial’s preference is to set a series of concrete targets with specific plans and actions to achieve these goals,” he said. “It’s very easy to make big promises to 2050, but we want to ensure our goals are credible and measurable and until such time as we have successfully identified clear, achievable steps to net-zero, we feel it’s premature to make such a commitment.”