Edit Monday May 23 at 10:50 am We have updated the project information following a reply from TotalEnergies after publication.
Gas drilling in the Russian Arctic, huge oil reserves in the United Arab Emirates, projects under threat in Mozambique… According to a study published on May 12 and analyzed by the NGO Reclaim Finance, French major TotalEnergies is involved in 22 “carbon bombs”. four of them were not (yet) in development in 2021.
The latter should not be explored or exploited if TotalEnergies, which announced $16 billion in net income in February, seeks to align with the zero-carbon trajectory recommended by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA, known for its more conservative positions, has called for no longer validating new oil and gas field developments after 2021 and for massive investments in renewable energy to keep climate change under control.
The information is vital as the company’s shareholders are due to give their opinion on the report on the group’s strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 during the shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday. At 20 Minutes’ request, TotalEnergies does not wish to comment on this study.
Researchers have identified 425 carbon bombs worldwide
What is a carbon bomb? This concept identifies the largest fossil fuel extraction projects that would have potential lifetime emissions that would exceed 1 gigatonne of CO2. For the first time, researchers have identified 425 worldwide, including 195 oil and gas projects and 230 mining projects. Taken together, all of these projects would blow the planet’s available carbon budget to limit global warming to 1.5°C “by a factor of two,” say Energy Policy researchers.
“This study creates a new framework that emphasizes what the gas, oil and coal industries see as business as usual and shows that this status quo poses a problem in the face of the climate emergency,” said Kjell Kühne, her lead author and PhD student at the University of Leeds in the UK. In 2011 he helped found the Leave it in the Ground campaign to end the use of fossil fuels.
TotalEnergies is involved in 25 highly polluting projects
These figures were made possible primarily thanks to the fee-based database Rystad Energy, an independent consultancy for the oil and gas industry based in Norway. The NGO Reclaim Finance, which has access to this database, spent 20 minutes analyzing TotalEnergies’ involvement in these carbon bombs. The company is involved in 22 projects whose cumulative potential emissions are 45.6 Gt CO2. Russia, Middle East: 11 of them are also in regions where carbon bombs are concentrated.
Several projects already under development will have severe impacts if all of their known reserves are depleted. In Argentina, potential emissions from the Vaca Muerta shale oil and gas reserves are estimated at 5.2 GtCO2, in Kazakhstan those from the Kashagan oil field are estimated at 5.1 GtCO2. In the United Arab Emirates, where TotalEnergies is involved in five carbon bombs, all of these oil and gas projects could emit 15.1 Gt of CO2.
“We must stop developing new fossil fuel extraction projects”
But the most worrying carbon bombs, which the researchers say should be “defused” as soon as possible, are proving to be the new projects that have not yet started. “As scientific studies show, the IEA report, as the Secretary General of the United Nations repeats, we are no longer allowed to develop new projects for the extraction of fossil fuels, we are no longer allowed to invest there,” explains Kjell Kühne. Current projects can already take us beyond 1.5°C or 2°C of warming. Therefore, existing infrastructure must be closed before its reserves are exhausted. When we build new projects today, they have to close earlier and some lose money in the process. »
In their study, the researchers propose a moratorium on these hundred new projects, which could avoid a third of the potential CO2 emissions. In 2021, TotalEnergies planned four new “carbon bombs” in Russia, Brazil and Mozambique, development of which had not yet started. “These are therefore projects that are directly inconsistent with what the IEA says,” specifies Guillaume Pottier, campaign manager at financial players for Reclaim Finance. TotalEnergies or its shareholders would have the power not to develop them. Their cumulative potential emissions reach 5.7 Gt CO2.
“The energy transition is not here”
TotalEnergies wants to invest large sums in fossil fuels in the next decade, just like Saudi Aramco, Gazprom, ExxonMobil or Shell. “The energy transition is not here, believes Guillaume Pottier. TotalEnergies would have to show very quickly that it is able to reduce fossil fuel production while increasing renewable energy production, which it is not. »
In 2020, 84% of investments, or $11 billion, went to fossil fuels, he specifies. “By 2022-2025, we’re at more than 70%, or $10.1 billion, going into fossil fuels every year,” he adds. By comparison, the company plans to invest $3.5 billion annually in renewable energy over this period. It has set itself the goal of generating 100 GW of renewable power by 2030.
In an in-depth investigation, the Guardian showed that 12 oil and gas companies – including TotalEnergies – planned to invest millions of dollars a day through 2030 in projects inconsistent with a global warming limit of 1.65°C and even beyond limited to 2.7°C.
Projects at risk in the Arctic, in Mozambique
In the Russian Arctic, one of the fastest-warming regions on earth, the giant Arctic LNG 2 liquefied natural gas project has been particularly controversial since the war in Ukraine. Although TotalEnergies will abandon Russian oil by the end of the year, the company is not yet abandoning its gas investments and in particular the Yamal LNG and Arctic LNG 2 already in operation. At the end of April it was announced that assets of 4.1 billion euros in this project were impaired due to the sanctions against Moscow.
In Mozambique, too, his three gas and oil projects are suffering from the very tense situation in the country. The development of a 16.5 billion euro liquefied natural gas project had started in 2020. But after an attack by jihadists on a compound in Cabo Delgado province, TotalEnergies shut it down in April 2021. In Brazil, Libra has discovered a huge offshore oil field in the Atlantic, another project is off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. Exploitation of part of this vast deep-sea field began in 2017 in a pre-production phase called Mero.
“TotalEnergies’ strategy is still not aligned with the Paris climate agreement”
However, TotalEnergies is defending its investments and intends to continue its development along the LNG chain. He advises 20 Minutes that fossil fuels should not account for more than 25% of his power generation mix in 2050 and that he will therefore be “in line with the IEA scenario landing point”. According to the investor coalition Climate Action 100+, which takes note of the climate protection efforts of the biggest polluters, TotalEnergies has not yet decarbonized its investments, despite the company’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
Over the past two years, a small group of shareholders have pushed for the company to do more meaningful things. “We believe that TotalEnergies’ strategy is still not in line with the Paris Agreement,” regrets investment fund Edmond de Rothschild AM to 20 minutes, stressing that TotalEnergies has not achieved a quantified objective absolute reduction in its other indirect emissions (known as Scope 3 ) at a global level before 2030. “Its target for 2030 appears to be that its absolute emissions remain globally stable, which is inconsistent with the various scientific scenarios and the IPCC recommendations,” the fund adds.
Eleven shareholders wanted to bring a resolution to the AGM this Wednesday that TotalEnergies would commit to a climate strategy with targets in line with the Paris Agreement, which the board of directors rejected. “This completely ignores the climate emergency,” regrets Edmond de Rothschild AM.