Press Release – Reclaim Finance and Greenpeace France

Thursday 18th March 2021 – The Board of Directors of Total SE has just announced in a press release that it will submit a resolution on “TotalEnergies’ energy transition towards carbon neutrality” to shareholders “for a consultative vote” at the Ordinary and Extraordinary General Meeting on Friday 28th May 2021. Against these diversion tactics, Reclaim Finance and Greenpeace France denounce yet another attempt at greenwashing and call on shareholders committed to the climate to submit their own climate resolution.

In its press release, the group says it has “taken several important decisions to support Total’s transformation into a multi-energy company [and] its commitment to the energy transition” (1).

For Lucie Pinson, founder and director of Reclaim Finance, “For the time being, all Total has to show for its purported commitment to the climate is a name change to TotalEnergies. But words alone are powerless to realize the ecological transition – the greenwashing of Total SE is fast becoming untenable. The group’s climate-conscious shareholders must table their own resolution demanding firstly that Total be transparent about its use of industrial and natural CO2 storage technologies, and secondly that it publish certain metrics which are essential for them to judge the risks associated with their investments.

Reclaim Finance and Greenpeace France published a report in late February, entitled “Pipeline of Pollution: Total Responsible, Finance complicit?” (2). This report unpacks Total’s so-called climate measures and exposes the opposition between the United Nations’ recommendations for a 3% and 4% annual decrease in oil and gas production up to 2030 and Total’s trajectory of a 50% increase in hydrocarbon production up to 2030, compared to 2015.

The only new item announced by Total SE in its press release is the integration of climate criteria into the Group’s remuneration policy and, in particular, of a criterion linked to the objective of reducing Scope 3 emissions in Europe in the rules for granting performance shares to Patrick Pouyanné and to all Group executives.

No details are given and it is still too early to know whether the changes Total will make to its compensation policy will be enough to counterbalance other management incentives based on targets around production and acquisition of fossil fuel reserves. But the fundamental problem remains unchanged, since these are motivational factors to ensure that the company’s climate objectives are met, not to change the objectives themselves. When you’re heading straight into a wall, it doesn’t matter whether you’re driving at 100mph or 200,” adds Edina Ifticene, oil campaigner at Greenpeace France.

In its press release, Total SE also writes that it “is thus giving shareholders the opportunity to express their view on the strategy for the transition to net zero that it has set for the Company, taking into account certain expectations expressed in this regard as well as the inadmissibility of a draft resolution relating to this strategy that would be presented by shareholders as it is an area of competence specific to the Board of Directors.”

The company is right on one point: shareholders cannot directly submit a resolution on climate change to the Ordinary General Meeting, as they tried to do last year at Vinci’s AGM. The company rejected their request. On the other hand, 11 shareholders coordinated by Meeschaert in 2020 tabled a resolution at the Extraordinary General Meeting requesting a change in the company’s articles of association to allow the inclusion of elements related to the company’s climate strategy in its management report. Total SE was unable to oppose the resolution due to a lack of legal grounds, while management did everything possible to dissuade these shareholders from going through with it.

Michael Hugman, Director Finance – Climate at CIFF comments: “The Say on Climate initiative advocated by CIFF seeks to provide investors with an annual vote on climate transition plans, but what use is a climate motion which doesn’t benefit the climate? The answer is none – shareholders should vote accordingly at the Total’s AGM, and hold the board to account, voting against their re-election if necessary. The CA100+ net zero company benchmark provides a framework to assess these plans. The climate emergency leaves precious little time to force investee companies to truly decarbonize their business. We therefore encourage Total’s shareholders to make the most of the space in French law and file a resolution which requires the board of Total to have a strategy aligned with net zero by 2050, phasing out oil and gas with clear short-term targets.

Press Contacts :

Notes :

  1. Read Total SE’s press release.
  2. Read the report “Pipeline of pollution: Total responsible, finance complicit?”, Reclaim Finance, Greenpeace France, February 2021.