France urged to step in to spur TotalEnergies’ transition from oil

The French government should intervene in TotalEnergies and spur faster climate action, a senate inquiry commission has concluded.

The commission, set up to explore ways the state could guarantee that the oil conglomerate complies with French climate commitments, recommended 33 steps the government should take to “encourage a rapid, orderly and effective transition”.

The actions include taking a “golden share” in Total that would grant the government more influence over strategic decisions and a potential right of veto that could stop the company moving its headquarters to the US. It also called on the French government to provide incentive for faster and greater investments from Total in renewable energy.

“The commission recommends that the state re-enters into the capital of TotalEnergies to have a right to review what is happening there,” said Yannick Jadot, a senator with the Greens who served as the rapporteur.

The commission, which was set up at the request of the Greens but contained senators from a range of political parties, praised Total for making greater efforts to transition to clean energy. But it said the energy company – and others like it – should move away more quickly from fossil fuels and increase its investments in renewable energy.

Beyond Total, the report called for an end to imports of Russian liquefied natural gas and suggested including it in European sanctions. It also recommended studying a method by which fossil fuel companies could pay contributions to a “loss and damage fund” to compensate poor countries for the havoc caused by increasingly extreme weather.

Total is one of several energy companies linked to “carbon bomb” projects, whose vast emissions are set to blow past internationally agreed temperature targets. In 2021, the International Energy Agency found no room for new oil and gas fields if the planet was to be kept from heating 1.5C (2.7F) above preindustrial levels by the end of the century, but its warnings have not been heeded.

The findings, which echo research from the IPCC and other scientific bodies, were used to argue for faster action.

Activists welcomed the report, but said its recommendations did not go far enough to halt climate breakdown.

Soraya Fettih, from the campaign group, said the report “recognises the need for the state to demonstrate more vigilance over the activities of the company”. But she said it remained “far too timid” in its recommendations on the regulatory role of the state.

Edina Ifticène, fossil energy campaigner at Greenpeace France, said the industry and its political supporters had “brushed aside” Total’s responsibility for the climate crisis. “The state must establish strong political constraints forcing the fossil fuel industry to reduce its carbon footprint and pay for the damage already caused.”

The commission’s report comes a day after the Paris court of appeals ruled that a previously rejected climate case against Total was admissible, and will now be heard on merit.

Total has been approached for comment.

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