In recent days TotalEnergies has been targeted by civil society actions in nine countries across three continents for its pipeline of pollution and climate injustice. The oil & gas giant is, unbelievably, planning to ramp up production in the Arctic region and to build new pipelines in East Africa, with its gas production increasing by more than 30% by 2030. This is only made possible by the continuing support of the company’s financial backers – such as Crédit Agricole, BNP Paribas and BlackRock, who were also targeted by activists. Banks and investors serious about their net-zero pledges must urgently cut off the taps which are ultimately enabling these expansion plans from Europe’s largest oil and gas developer.

Killing the climate: TotalEnergies’ plans expand fossil fuel production

It’s no secret for banks and investors that there is something rotten in Total’s climate plans.

  • TotalEnergies’ 2030 climate targets are far from what is required to limit global warming at 1.5°C. The company forecasts a 35% growth of gas production between 2019 and 2030, by which time global emissions and fossil fuel production should have massively declined.
  • By 2030, TotalEnergies will still be dedicating about 80% of its investment capacity to oil and gas, including for the development of new projects.
  • Indeed, TotalEnergies has big plans for East Africa : pumping oil in Uganda, building a huge and controversial pipeline across the region and shipping it out to the rest of the world, possibly displacing thousands of people in the process.
  • TotalEnergies also has big plans for the Arctic: increasing its oil and gas production by more than 25% in the next five years, building a second LNG terminal to ship out more Arctic gas worldwide.

Banks & investors and TotalEnergies: old friends  

Despite its ecocidal plans, TotalEnergies still has the backing of major banks. From 2016 to 2020, more than 30 commercial banks channeled a total of $40.6 billion to the company. Top bankers included Barclays ($3.5 billion), JPMorgan Chase ($3 billion), Crédit Agricole ($2.9 billion) and Morgan Stanley ($2.7 billion). From 2016 to 2020, the four major French banks – Crédit Agricole, BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Natixis-BPCE are responsible for channeling $7.7 billion to TotalEnergies, in support of its corporate strategy. Crédit Agricole is also a major investor of TotalEnergies, via its asset management branch Amundi, and followed by BlackRock. Both were targeted by activists this weekend for supporting oil and gas expansion despite net zero climate pledges.

Most major banks and investors have now joined one of the net zero alliances committing their members to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. This critical climate goal cannot be reached without addressing the elephant in the room: fossil fuel expansion, in line with the International Energy Agency’s findings ruling out investments in new oil and gas fields. Given that net zero pledges are not compatible with oil and gas expansion, all serious financial institutions should start by ending support for fossil fuel developers. In this case, the takeaway couldn’t be clearer: TotalEnergies is the seventh biggest hydrocarbon developer in the world according to the recently published Global Oil and Gas Exit List.

When will banks stop fuelling oil and gas expansion?

Banks and investors are falling for the “green transition” fairytale. TotalEnergies’ corporate strategy is at odds with climate science. Banks and investors know this and yet, they are having a hard time calling out – let alone cutting out – the oil and gas major. More and more are buying the fable that TotalEnergies is a company “transitioning” from oil slicks to renewable power. They are building exceptions into their climate policies for companies such as TotalEnergies and its “credible” transition plans. If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.

The financial sector has been holding the oil and gas industry’s hand for so long, it does not know how to let it go. Financial institutions are designing climate policies with increasingly creative loopholes to maintain support for fossil fuel developers like Total Energies. And no, it’s not going to be enough to step out of one or another of Total’s projects, while at the same time continuing to channel corporate financing used to implement TotalEnergies’ plans for climate chaos.

French bank La Banque Postale set an international precedent by ending any support to companies developing new oil and gas projects but big banks have yet to lead by example. Let’s hope that others – including French banks BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole, major backers of the oil and gas industry – will step up to the challenge and tackle oil and gas expansion.

As the gravity of the climate crisis becomes apparent, the financial sector faces a stark choice: protect the climate or protect the oil and gas industry. If banks, insurers and investors want to stay true to their climate commitments and help achieve net zero by 2050, then they must immediately align with the no new oil and gas principle, and suspending all financial services for oil and gas companies that don’t – chief among them, TotalEnergies.