21 November 2023
TotalEnergies’ dangerous silence on the carbon budget
21 November 2023
Faced with criticism over its policy of deploying fossil fuel projects, TotalEnergies’ systematic response is that the company will be “carbon neutral” by 2050, implying that this is a sufficient commitment to respond to climate disruption and stay below the 1.5°C global warming target.
This is not true.
And is an extremely dangerous rhetoric.
TotalEnergies is ignoring a key concept in climate change mitigation, that of the “carbon budget”, disregarding international scientific findings and recommendations as much as the media, politicians and citizens. This is a harmful communication strategy by TotalEnergies, who is far from the first of its kind when it comes to greenwashing.
This lie by omission is at the heart of a new report that BLOOM is publishing today to denounce the cynical strategy of TotalEnergies, which has NO intention of complying with the Paris Agreement and reducing its emissions by 2050 – on the contrary.
Instead of reducing its CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030, TotalEnergies will maintain them at current levels by opening up new fossil fuel production sites. The oil major can ensure that it will be “carbon neutral” on the morning of 1 January 2050, having closed all its operating sites the day before, given that Total has made no commitment whatsoever not to destroy the climate before 31 Dec. 2049.
Indeed, since the Paris Agreement, TotalEnergies has not once uttered the words “carbon budget” in its public communications, which BLOOM has scrutinized in order to factually assess the company’s level of disingenuousness.
This is one of the ground-breaking findings of our report.
TotalEnergies’ cynical choice will affect the lives, and potentially the deaths, of millions of people. It is a criminal choice.
“Net zero” is not the “carbon budget”.
The fight against climate change requires the deployment of a “net zero” objective and a “carbon budget” tool.
As emphasized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), the concepts of “net zero” and “carbon budget” are two inseparable sides of the same coin, and require, in order to comply with the Paris Agreement:
1- an immediate halt to all new fossil fuel projects,
2- a 45% reduction in global emissions by 2030 compared to 2010 levels,
3- carbon neutrality by 2050.
While TotalEnergies does promise to achieve the third objective of “net zero by 2050”, the oil major tramples over the first by continually launching new fossil extraction projects, and says nothing about the second objective, namely the need to reduce its emissions between then and now. TotalEnergies never takes into account the central notion of “carbon budget” in its climate-related documents and trajectories.
Contrary to all scientific recommendations, TotalEnergies has even announced that its emissions will remain constant until at least 2030 (1), and that its hydrocarbon production will increase by 15% between now and then (2), with the development of dozens of climate bombs and new fossil fuel extraction projects in South Africa (TEEPSA), Qatar (North Field), Papua New Guinea (Papua LNG), Uganda and Tanzania (EACOP), among others (3).
By pursuing its irresponsible choices to invest in fossil fuels and refusing to commit to an immediate reduction in emissions compatible with respecting a carbon budget, which have been determined by scientists in response to the Paris Agreement, TotalEnergies is fuelling climate chaos. TotalEnergies’ deceptive “net zero by 2050” objective cannot disguise its extremely harmful choices.
In other words, while TotalEnergies is committed to being carbon-neutral by 2050, its investment strategy is leading us towards climate catastrophe through the multiplication of fossil fuel projects that are inexorably burying the possibility of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by the end of the century. Driven by an obsessive quest for profit, and considering itself under no obligation to reduce its emissions before 2050, TotalEnergies refuses to give up a single drop of hydrocarbon, even if it means that the planet will move towards scenarios of 3°C or 3.5°C global warming.
TotalEnergies’ intellectual dishonesty, its communication strategy and its inability to commit to an immediate reduction in its CO2 emissions thus demonstrate the company’s criminal responsibility towards humanity and the biosphere as a whole. In failing to once mention its “carbon budget”, it is thus revealed for what it is: a dangerous silence.
(1) TotalEnergies (2023) Strategy, Sustainability, and Climate, page 20.
(2) TotalEnergies (2023) Présentation Stratégie et perspectives 2023 – « TotalEnergies prévoit d’augmenter sa production d’hydrocarbures de 2 à 3% par an sur les cinq prochaines années ». (“TotalEnergies plans to increase its hydrocarbon production by 2% to 3% per year over the next five years.”)
(3) Usbek & Rica (2022) North Field, la « pire bombe climatique au monde » portée par le Qatar et Total, STOPEACOP, Bloom (2022) Une nouvelle bombe climatique en Afrique du Sud : BLOOM et The Green Connection s’opposent au projet gazier offshore de TotalEnergies, Greenpeace (2023) Les bombes climatiques de TotalEnergies: la forêt derrière l’arbre EACOP.