Press Release – Reclaim Finance and Greenpeace France

Friday 2nd April 2021 – In order to dissuade its most climate-conscious shareholders from tabling a new climate resolution to the Annual General Meeting taking place at the end of May, Total has just announced, in a report detailing the resolutions, additional tiny measures relating to the group’s decarbonization objectives. However, none of them aim to change the forecasted increase in its hydrocarbon production by 2030. Reclaim Finance and Greenpeace France therefore join calls from the likes of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), for Total shareholders to commit to voting against the group’s climate strategy and to table their own climate resolution

In a notice for its upcoming AGM on 28th May (1), Total announced a number of minor improvements to the climate strategy, which it plans to submit to a shareholder vote along the principle of Say on Climate:

  • With the aim of reaching carbon neutrality in its global operations (scope 1 and 2) by 2050, Total is announcing a new intermediate objective of a 40% emissions reduction by 2030, versus 2015 levels.
  • Total is envisaging that a larger reduction in the average carbon intensity of energy products used by its customers worldwide (scope 1+2+3), increasing from 15% to 20% by 2030.
  • The group Is making a commitment that “the level of scope 3 global emissions linked to client usage of energy products sold for end use in 2030 is lower than the absolute value in 2015” but does not specify any number.

Total is announcing these changes at a time when more than 500 investors have acknowledged, in a recent assessment of the climate performance of the biggest polluters, that Total has not taken adequate measures to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality (2). This Groundhog Day attempt is not convincing, with CIFF, the foundation behind the Say on Climate initiative, among the sceptics.

“Total’s new announcement doesn’t change the big picture. Its climate strategy is not aligned with a 2050 net zero target and Total’s shareholders should vote accordingly at the Total’s AGM, and hold the board to account, voting against their re-election if necessary. 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 (3) 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” declares Michael Hugman, director of the Climate and Finance Programme Climat at CIFF.

While the “Production Gap” report, coordinated by the United Nations, indicates that oil and gas production must fall by 4% and 5% respectively per year up to 2030 to meet the 1.5°C target, Total has just confirmed that fossil fuels will still make up 80% of its investments in 2030.

Lucie Pinson, founder and director of Reclaim Finance: “The objective is correct, but Total will never reach it. By maintaining its commitment to increase its hydrocarbon production by 50% by 2030 (4) while claiming just the opposite, Total is acting like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. It is offering up a shimmering world in which it can magically disappear the very emissions it has knowingly spewed out in refusing to follow the science: leave fossil fuels in the ground! Its shareholders must rapidly wake up from this dreamworld”.

Carbon neutrality by 2050 can only be achieved by adopting concrete and immediate measures to reduce GHG emissions by 7.6% from now until 2030. However, the oil major is betting mainly on the deployment of carbon sink technologies which are not mature and/or largely insufficient (see our report on Total from last month). In fact, the announced 20% reduction in the carbon intensity of the energy products used by its customers by 2030 (compared to 15% previously) remains anecdotal: Carbone 4 calculates that Total would have to reduce this indicator by 75% to meet the Paris Agreement’s objective of limiting temperatures to 2°C and by 90% for an objective of less than 2°C.

Despite the expansion of its commitment to cover the whole world, the announcements of Total, which continues to push back any potential reduction in fossil fuel production beyond 2030, amount to bailing out the Titanic with a teaspoon,” says Edina Ifticène, oil campaigner at Greenpeace France. “This is yet another diversion from the oil giant, whose purpose is to gain time while changing nothing. Total is a specialist in these attention-grabbing announcements, which divert attention from the real issues, namely beginning the exit from fossil fuels. This is part of a well-honed influence strategy which Greenpeace France breaks down in a documentary series ‘Total’s Grip’, published today.

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Notes :

  1. Read Total’s notice for its upcoming AGM on 28th May, with a report on the resolutions submitted. The binding French version is available here.
  2. See the benchmark published by the Climate Action 100+ coalition, which is worth more than $52 trillion and includes many French investors, including Amundi, AXA IM and BNP Paribas Asset Management, as well as our reaction.
  3. Total SE argued that the tabling of a climate resolution by shareholders was illegal. However, Total SE had accepted last year a resolution from 11 shareholders which had included climate-related elements requiring a change in the articles of association. Only the ordinary climate resolution filed by TCI for VINCI’s general meeting was deemed inadmissible by the company. The law has not changed in this area since last year and Total has no reason to oppose what it accepted last year. Its position is primarily aimed at dissuading its shareholders from filing their own resolution. Such a resolution would not only allow shareholders to express their expectations of Total but would also move towards a clarification of the law, with a good chance of leading to a strengthening of shareholders’ rights with regard to climate change.
  4. Read the report “Pipeline of Pollution: Total responsible, finance complicit?”, published by Reclaim Finance and Greenpeace France, February 2021, and a summary here.
  5. Find the first episode of Greenpeace France’s documentary (in French) here.