Total’s management has announced that it will submit a name change to TotalEnergies to a vote of its shareholders. Reclaim Finance and Greenpeace France have analyzed Total’s climate commitments. The verdict is indisputable: in putting an “S” onto “énergie” to underline its development in renewable energies, Total is getting ahead of itself, given that 99.7% of its production is in hydrocarbons and it still directs more than 90% of its spending towards fossil fuels. The report, entitled “Pipeline of pollution: Total responsible, finance complicit?”, breaks down Total’s promises and possible courses of action for financial players keen to respond to the climate emergency.

The report begins with an assessment of Total’s climate commitments. The company has committed to investing massively in renewable energies. Whilst the role of false solutions such as biomass is concerning, the significant amounts invested support Total’s communication efforts to appear as a multi-energy group. But these amounts must be compared with those invested in fossil fuels, and this is where the problem lies:

  • In 2020, Total produced 447 units of fossil fuels for every 1 unit of renewable energy – fossil fuels thus represent more than 99.7% of its mix.
  • The evolution of Total’s hydrocarbon production will result in an increase of more than 50% between 2015 and 2030.
  • In 2030, Total’s CO2 emissions are expected to exceed by 200Mt the maximum allowable emissions to align with a 1.5° trajectory.
  • In 2030, 80% of Total’s investments will still be directed towards fossil fuels.

To invest in Total is therefore to invest in the expansion of fossil fuels and the aggravation of climate catastrophe.

A growing number of financial actors are committed to achieving carbon neutrality (net-zero) and aligning their activities with the 1.5°C objective. The way they adapt their relationship with Total SE is a good indicator of the sincerity of their commitments and potential challenges to their success.

  • The 4 largest French banks have granted more than $16 billion in financing to Total SE between 2016 and 2020. Crédit Agricole is the first with $7.3 billion of financing, followed by BNP Paribas with nearly $6 billion.
  • French investors hold more than $13.8 billion of investments in Total SE. Amundi – Crédit Agricole’s asset manager – is also the world’s second largest shareholder in Total after BlackRock, holding nearly $9.7 billion in investments in Total, notably through the Corporate Savings Plan.
  • Apart from sustainable finance actors, no French financial player has excluded Total from its support and none has a policy requiring it to halt the development of new fossil fuel projects. However, gas and oil production must decrease by 3% and 4% per year by 2030 to limit warming to 1.5°C. In addition, the French Minister of the Economy, Finance and Recovery, Bruno Le Maire, called on financial actors, during the Climate Finance Day of 2020, to adopt exit policies for unconventional oil and gas, covering in particular the Arctic, where Total is developing five new projects.
  • Last year, Amundi, AXA, Natixis and Lyxor all voted against the climate resolution tabled at the Total AGM by 11 shareholders including La Banque Postale Asset Management, Crédit Mutuel and Meeschaert. BNP Paribas AM had opposed the resolution before abstaining.

Financial actors must table a new climate resolution requiring Total to adopt a real plan to decarbonize its activities and to condition their financial support on halting the development of new fossil fuel projects, a fortiori in non-conventional fossil fuels such as in the Arctic.

Read the full report