Teenage activist nominates himself as AGL director

AN 18-year-old student has bought shares in AGL and nominated himself as a director, in an attempt to force the company away from coal.
Teenage activist nominates himself as AGL director Teenage activist nominates himself as AGL director Teenage activist nominates himself as AGL director Teenage activist nominates himself as AGL director Teenage activist nominates himself as AGL director

Demands coal-closure

Mark Tilly


Mark Tilly

The first-year university student from Melbourne University, Ashjayeen Sharif, who is affiliated with the School Strike for Climate activist group, enjoys the title of the first activist in Australia to run for a leadership position at a resources company. 

"I'm a young person worried about climate change and so I decided to take matters into my own hands and go straight to the source - AGL, Australia's biggest corporate climate polluter," Sharif said.

"AGL's current leaders have shown they can't be trusted to do the right thing on climate change, and so I'm stepping up to become a director, because I'm confident I could do a better job." 

The "Ash for Director" campaign, spearheaded by Greenpeace, is the latest in a string of shareholder activist groups to put shareholder resolutions to company's in a bid to force them to reduce their emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

Sharif pointed to last week's IPCC report warning of the faster warming of the planet and its dangerous associative impacts to shame AGL chairman Peter Botten and managing director Graeme Hunt. 

"The current leaders, Graeme Hunt and Peter Botten, won't be alive to have to deal with their climate-wrecking legacy. It's young people like me that will have to deal with the fallout," he said. 

In an open letter to the company, Sharif demanded AGL bring forward the closure of Loy Yang A and Bayswater power stations to 2030 or sooner.

Sharif did not say what qualifications or experience he would bring to the Board, but said in a campaign video that "he could do a better job than them," and that he wants to turn the company into a "renewable energy powerhouse". 

AGL has suffered a A$2 billion loss as rooftop solar and renewables eats into its electricity earnings, with the company saying the underlying conditions are more challenging than expected as it presses ahead with its demerger. 

However it said it is determined to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and is looking to transition its coal-fired power stations into hybrid energy hubs. 

Shareholders will vote on the demerger as well as on the appointment of directors at the company's annual general meeting next month.

AGL referred Energy News to its notice of AGM document, which said the company "does not in anyway endorse the platform on which Ashjayeen Sharif is standing for election".  

Earlier this year shareholder activist group Engine No.1 successfully nominated three directors to ExxonMobil's board.

The three directors will be the minority on a 12-strong board, however commentators are seeing it as an opportunity to shake things up at the global company.

Updated to include response from AGL