Total announces net-zero “ambition” following CA100+ engagement

Civil society groups warn of worrying pattern in European oil major pledges

Total has become the latest European oil & gas major to announce a net-zero “ambition”, following engagement with Climate Action 100+, the investor engagement initiative targeting the world’s dirtiest companies.

In a joint statement agreed with investors, released today, the French giant unveiled its goal of achieving net-zero emissions across its “operations and production (scope 1 & 2) and energy products used by its customers in Europe (scope 3) by 2050 or sooner”.

The commitment means that all European oil & gas majors, including BP, Shell and now Total, have made some sort of 2050 net-zero commitment on emissions. 

Last month, Shell declared its own “ambition”, the details of which mirror Total’s pledges in many respects, such as reducing carbon intensity of products. 

One apparent difference, however, is that Total’s commitments include an assessment of oil & gas capex “for consistency with the goals of the Paris Agreement” as part of the firm’s annual reporting – such a component doesn’t seem to have been included in Shell’s ambition.

‘Every time a climate targets resolution comes to a vote at an oil major, the targeted company publishes a new ambition together with CA100+ and calls the resolution ‘unnecessary’’ – Mark van Baal, Follow This

Joe Brooks, Project Officer at shareholder advocacy NGO ShareAction, told RI last month that at Shell’s 2019 Management Day the company “was clear that it planned to ‘fully sustain the upstream business through the next decades’”. He added: “This is concerning given that at least 30-40% of Shell's capex is incompatible with the Paris climate goals”. 

As with Total, Shell’s announcement was welcomed by CA100+.

But Mark van Baal, Founder of Dutch not for profit Follow This, sees a concerning pattern emerging with these commitments.

“Every time a climate targets resolution comes to a vote at an oil major, the targeted company publishes a new ambition together with CA100+ and calls the resolution ‘unnecessary’”, he said. 

“We believe that only concrete targets for all emissions will lead to the necessary shift in investments from fossil fuels to renewables.”

Follow This has again filed a proposal at Shell this year calling on it to set and publish such targets, but Shell has recommended shareholders vote it down, describing it as “unnecessary and potentially counterproductive” in light of the steps it is taking. 

Similarly, Total’s commitments follow the filing of a resolution last month, in which 11 European investors called on it to amend its articles of association so that it must report yearly on its efforts to align with Paris, including disclosing “appropriate targets” for the “reduction of direct or indirect greenhouse gas emissions”.

RI understands that the Total proposal is being treated completely independently of CA100+’s efforts with the company, despite the majority of the proposal’s co-filers being members of the initiative. 

However, BNP Paribas Asset Management and EOS, the engagement arm of Federated Hermes, lead engagement on Total as part of CA100+ and neither are involved in the Total resolution.  

Helena Viñes Fiestas, Global Head of Stewardship and Policy, BNP Paribas Asset Management, described Total’s commitments as “one of the most significant achievements in the oil & gas industry so far”.

“We welcome Total’s 2050 net zero ambition and the further steps to achieve this, which follows constructive engagement over a number of years,” added Bruce Duguid, Head of Stewardship at EOS. 

Shell’s annual meeting takes place on 19 May and Total’s on 29 May.