Total avoids investor revolt on climate at AGM

Major support for French oil major’s climate plan despite key investors urging company to ‘do more to reduce emissions’

Total, the French oil major, has avoided an investor revolt on its climate change strategy after shareholders today overwhelmingly backed an advisory resolution that the board pre-emptively put forward to approve its net zero commitments and change the company’s name to TotalEnergies, as it re-brands away from a pure fossil fuel company.

The French major avoided the climate-related investor pushback seen at oil major peers Exxon and Chevron earlier this week, despite a number of large institutional investors owning Total shares – including Dutch metalworkers pension funds PMT and PME and fund manager Actiam – announcing in advance of today’s AGM that they would vote against its climate transition strategy, saying it was not ambitious enough.

Other large investors, notably US fund giant BlackRock, announced that they would back the plan. 

The resolution, which outlines Total’s proposed transition to net zero emissions across worldwide operations and production (scope 1 & 2) and energy products used by customers in Europe (scope 3) by 2050 or sooner, gained 91.88% support at the vote today. 

Total has also committed to having oil and gas capex assessed for consistency with the goals of the Paris Agreement, alongside annual reporting on that alignment.

The plans were endorsed last year by the powerful Climate Action100+ group of investors lobbying for corporate climate change action.

MN, the €175bn Dutch asset manager that runs the money of both the PMT and PME Dutch pension funds, along with France’s Meeschaert Asset Management and EOS at Federated Hermes, the Anglo-US investment house, have been co-leading engagement dialogues with Total on behalf of Climate Action 100+.

Yet both PMT, the Netherland’s third largest pension fund with €93bn in assets, and PME voted against the plan.  

Hartwig Liersch, Chief Investment Officer at PMT, said:  “We welcome a number of sustainability initiatives taken by Total, such as the plan to increase production of renewable energy to 100 gigawatt in 2030. This shows that the company is moving in the right direction. Still, we think Total can and should do more to reduce its CO2 emissions.”

Earlier this week, Exxon shareholders voted to replace two board members in favour of new directors with climate experience. 

At Chevron’s AGM on May 26, 61% of shareholders voted for a proposal by campaign group Follow This to reduce scope 3 emissions. Just under half of shareholders also voted in favour of a proposal to report on the impacts of the company’s Net Zero 2050 scenario. 

Earlier this month, 58% of shareholders voted for a similar Follow This resolution at US oil major ConocoPhillips, while 80% backed the resolution at fellow major Phillips66.   

Support for Follow This climate resolutions at other recent oil major AGMs also more than doubled year on year, garnering 21% at BP, 39% at Equinor, and 30% at Shell, despite existing net zero by 2050 promises.