TotalEnergies gears up for greenwashing at its investor day

Sign outside a TotalEnergies refinery.
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French fossil fuel major TotalEnergies will host its next ‘Investor Day’ on Wednesday 27 September. As it says on the tin, the company will court financial support from prospective investors at the event.

However, financial accountability group Reclaim Finance has recently called out the firm’s hypocritical claim to be a “major player in the energy transition”.

TotalEnergies: totally committed to fossil fuels

At Total’s last ‘Investor Day’ in March, the company painted a rosy image of its operations. In its presentation, it headlined its first slide with the flashy slogan:

Strategy, Sustainability & Climate

Global strengths, global results
More results, less emissions

However, TotalEnergies’ green energy trajectory pales in comparison to the company’s fossil fuel expansion plans. By 2030, its solar, wind, and low carbon energy – which includes biofuels, biogas, and hydrogen – will make up just 20% of its energy mix.

Meanwhile, the oil and gas major is intending to develop new fossil fuel projects. Oil Change International has estimated that its expansion plans between 2023 and 2025 alone will generate over 1,600Mt of carbon dioxide over the new project’s lifetime.

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Naturally, the company’s 80/20 fossil fuel/green energy mix will also fail to lower its emissions. Despite the vital need for emissions reductions from all sectors, TotalEnergies’s plans will maintain its output at the same level to 2030.

For instance, the company’s new projects include a liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal in Papua New Guinea. Total has also expressed its intention to restart a large-scale LNG operation in Mozambique in 2024. The company aims to increase its gas production by 12% and its LNG output by 40% between 2020 and 2030.

Of course, none of this has stopped Total’s chief executive Patrick Pouyanné from claiming that the company is:

the most committed to the energy transition.

TotalEnergies ‘Investor Day’ is a chance for greenwashing

Reclaim Finance therefore argued that the TotalEnergies ‘Investor Day’ is an opportunity for the company to greenwash its image to investors. In a press release on the 26 September, advocacy lead Antoine Laurent said:

These claims, often repeated by investors, that TotalEnergies is genuinely diversifying its activities to make a real contribution to the transition do not stand up to analysis.

Instead, Laurent argued that:

It intends to increase its fossil gas business in both relative and absolute terms. Investors cannot credibly justify their support for TotalEnergies on the basis that they are supporting the company in its transition. This argument has no basis in fact.

Moreover, the non-profit has pointed out that while Total aims to reach 100GW of renewable energy by 2030, this figure is deeply misleading.

In particular, it noted that the target includes green energy projects where the company holds only a minority share. This means that the company is basing its renewable energy mix on existing green projects. It’s doing so instead of developing new capacity – unlike with its fossil fuel operations.

On top of this, the company will produce some of its electricity and hydrogen through gas in order to meet its 20% renewables mix. Of course, this relies on the potent greenhouse gas methane, which is over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the short-term.

Climate-wrecking projects

Reclaim Finance have also called on French bank Crédit Agricole to withdraw its finance for the new liquified natural gas (LNG) project in Papua New Guinea. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has estimated that the project’s emissions would increase the Pacific Island country’s emissions by over 7%.

The bulk of these would derive from the project’s scope 3 emissions – those generated from burning the gas. Significantly, it would create 220 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent over its lifetime. This is approximately equal to the annual emissions of Bangladesh.

Given these figures, Total should be hard-pressed to win investors over with its blatant greenwashing. However, financiers are no strangers to this sort of climate-destructive complicity. Since 2016, Crédit Agricole has poured over US $89bn into fossil fuel companies – over $28bn of which went to TotalEnergies.

Peter Bosip from the Papua New Guinea NGO CELCOR said of the project:

Papua New Guinea is already suffering the full brunt of climate change. By developing this fossil fuel project, TotalEnergies would be taking us even further into new climate, environmental and social risks. If we are to have a sustainable future, French banks, and Crédit Agricole in particular, must commit to no longer supporting Papua LNG.

Human rights violations

The call by Reclaim Finance and CELCOR is the latest in a series of demands by non-profits and campaign groups to financial institutions funding Total’s climate-wrecking projects.

Total has become notorious for its involvement in the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) in Uganda and Tanzania. The 1,443km-long pipeline has been linked to attacks on human rights defenders. The project has put the company in the infamous position of sitting among the top five worst companies for attacks against rights defenders in 2022.

EACOP risks displacing over 100,000 people along the route. In addition, it threatens thousands of kilometres of vital wildlife habitats. In August, campaigners protested outside the headquarters of multiple insurance companies over the project.

As investors sidle up for Total’s event, they should bear the company’s greenwashing and climate-destructive record in mind. Campaigners and communities have shown they won’t stand idly by while these corporate profiteers wreck the planet.

Feature image via France 24/Youtube screengrab.

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