Written by 15 h 01 min Advocacy, Press release-en

Total’s new climate change ambitions: a variable-geometry “carbon neutrality”?

Paris, May 5, 2020 Under the pressure of civil society and EU 2050 carbon neutrality commitments, Total is finally acknowledging its major climate responsibility.  Nevertheless, while its carbon footprint increased further in 2019, the Group’s midterm targets for 2030 remain unchanged and Total does not present any credible plan to move away from fossil fuels. In fact, Total will continue to invest heavily in oil and gas and reserves the possibility of selling significant quantities of carbon products after 2050, particularly outside Europe. Moreover, these commitments are not included in Total’s Vigilance Plan, a legally binding document enforceable by members of civil society.

What are Total’s new climate “ambitions”?

  • Aiming for carbon neutrality worldwide in 2050 for its Scopes 1 and 2 emissions (respectively, direct and indirect emissions related to the energy consumption of operated sites);
  • Achieving carbon neutrality in Europe by 2050 for all its emissions, including Scope 3 emissions (emissions resulting from the use of products);
  • 60% reduction in global carbon intensity by 2050 (Scope 1 + 2 + 3);
  • Investment of 20% in the low-carbon sector [1] by 2030.

Why these new objectives do not change Total’s oil and gas strategy

First of all, Scope 3 emissions account for 85% of the company’s GHGs [2] and the European market accounts for 50 to 60% of Total’s sales [3]. Put another way, 40-50% of the group’s market share is not affected by Total’s carbon neutrality target and the company could still sell its carbon products outside Europe. This announcement therefore merely transposes the consequences of the European “Green Deal” to the group. Nor does it specify to which extent Total relies on CO2 capture and storage technologies (known as “CCUS”) to reach this objective, even though the IPCC recalls that they “are uncertain and carry obvious risks”[4].

Secondly, a 60% reduction in carbon intensity does not guarantee a reduction in the Group’s net emissions, and does not limit the volume of hydrocarbons that it will be able to sell by 2050. It is only a temporal extension of its previous carbon intensity reduction targets of 15% for 2030 and 25 to 40% for 2040. The facts show that the slight decrease in the carbon intensity of the products used by Total’s customers in 2019 (71 to 70 gCO2 e/kBTu) was accompanied by an increase in absolute Scope 3 emissions in the same year (400 to 410 MtCO2e)[5], which is explained by the 9% increase in the Group’s hydrocarbon production in 2019 [6].

Despite the actions required to address the climate emergency, Total plans to grow its oil and gas operations [7]. For the organizations that initiated the climate change litigation against Total: “As  argued in our statement of claim, it is necessary for the company to consider a drastic decrease in oil and gas production in order to stop its illegal contribution to global warming [8]. Consequently, investments must be directed massively towards decarbonated energies and must be significantly higher than current forecasts“[9].

Finally, these commitments are not included in the Group’s parent company’s Vigilance Plan, which would legally bind the company to implement its ambitions.

More than ever, the 5 associations and 14 local authorities [10] are convinced of the legitimacy of the legal action initiated in January 2020 before the Nanterre court, which they intend to continue. They call on Total to align all of its activities on a path that is compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5°C in order to prevent the violations of human rights, the environment and human health and safety that would result from uncontrolled global warming. Due to its incompleteness and inconsistency with the Group’s growth objectives, Total’s announcement does not make it possible to limit global warming to a level that is tolerable and compatible with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

1] Fossil fuel gas is not excluded.

2] p. 232 of Total’s DUE 2019.

3] P. 6 of DUE 2019 and P. 8 of Total’s DDR 2018

4] “Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty“, IPCC, Summary for Policy Makers

5] p.232 DEU 2019

6] p.26 DEU 2019

7] Indeed, the company considers that there remains “a need for the industry to invest very substantially to cope with the natural decline of the fields and to meet the demand for oil predicted by these scenarios over a 20-year horizon and the slowdown in investment observed since 2015 in the oil and gas industry” (p 305 DUE 2019).

8] Oil be divided by 10 in the world primary energy mix and gas by 6 by 2050 compared to 2010 to reach the 1.5°C objective, IPCC Special Summary 1.5°C of 2018.

9] According to the IPCC, the share of RE in the global energy mix is expected to quadruple by 2030 and increase eightfold by 2050.

10] Arcueil, Bayonne, Bègles, Bize-Minervois, Champneuville, Centre Val de Loire, Correns, Est-Ensemble Grand Paris, Grenoble, La Possession, Mouans-Sartoux, Nanterre, Sevran and Vitry-le-François.

Signatories :


Notre Affaire à Tous

Les Eco Maires

France Nature Environnement


Mes Sébastien Mabile et François de Cambiaire

Last modified: 4 June 2020