8.12% thus voted directly against the climate strategy; the abstention rate is not yet known, though some players such as Crédit Mutuel announced their abstention in advance. While most votes at the AGM ranged between 97 and 99%, the vote compares unfavourably with the 16.8% of shareholders who had supported a climate resolution at Total’s 2020 AGM, with some of its proposers now backing Total (3).
In a similar vote last week, 11% of Shell’s shareholders voted against its energy transition plan (4), demonstrating a reluctance amongst investors to oppose oil majors outright. This led to the contradictory situation whereby AXA and Amundi signed a statement recognizing the insufficiency of Total’s strategy last week, before voting for it this week (5). Campaigners attacked investors for “blatant hypocrisy” in regard to their climate commitments.
Lucie Pinson, Founder and Executive Director at Reclaim Finance, said: “By supporting Total’s greenwashed strategy, shareholders have voted willingly for climate chaos. In blatantly disregarding the International Energy Agency’s unambiguous recommendations and giving a green light to Total’s oil and gas expansion plans, shareholders like AXA, BNP Paribas and Amundi have made a mockery of their own climate commitments. Nonetheless, we salute the investors, who defied Total to assert the demands of climate science. Unlike their peers, they have shown themselves to be concerned with the substance of climate action, not just the appearance of it.”
Numerous investors had announced their intention to oppose the climate strategy in the run up to the AGM, among them Meeschaert and Ircantec, two important investors in the influential Climate Action 100+ investor group (6). La Banque Postale was also reported to have voted against, while the large French bank Crédit Mutuel abstained with a critique of the weaknesses of Total’s climate plan (6).
Investors cited an array of failures in Total’s climate plan in a series of accompanying statements: the major’s failure to put an end to its exploration and prospecting of new oil and gas reserves, as the IEA recommended; a lack of clarity on how Total would reach its climate goals while still dedicating 80% of its capital investment to oil and gas; and the oil giant’s controversial projects, such as the EACOP in East Africa, and others in Myanmar and the Arctic.
Edina Ifticène, oil campaigner at Greenpeace France, said: “Total might have cajoled its shareholders but there’s no bartering with climate science: its oil and gas expansion plans are at odds with a liveable future. The IEA has confirmed that there can be no new fossil fuel projects if we want to live in a climate-safe world. But Total is now saying the IEA is too radical and is ploughing ahead with a bogus climate strategy which expands gas production by 30% and doubles down on oil. Shareholders claim to care about climate but are giving Total carte blanche to wreck the climate. History will judge them harshly.”
Total’s top investor, Amundi, was unmoved by these arguments, justifying its vote in favour of the strategy by praising Total’s decision to consult its shareholders on climate and to link director pay to absolute CO2 emissions reduction. Unfortunately, Total has not indicated any plan to repeat the exercise, unlike Shell, and the pay adjustments won’t have any significant effect on the group’s climate objective.
“The mask has slipped – investors like Amundi and AXA seem to care more about the appearance of climate action than the reality of it.”, concludes Lucie Pinson.