French oil major rebrands, wins climate backing By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of French oil and gas company Total is seen in Rueil-Malmaison, near Paris, France, March 2, 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

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PARIS (Reuters) -Oil and gas group Total won more than 90% backing for its climate plan to gradually reduce its emissions on Friday, when shareholders also voted overwhelmingly in favour of its rebrand as TotalEnergies to mark its shift to renewable energy.

Some shareholders had campaigned for a pushback against Total’s green goals, on the basis they were not ambitious enough, echoing growing investor rebellions in the sector.

Demands for oil companies to move away from fossil fuel reached a crescendo this week as a Dutch court ordered Royal Dutch Shell (LON:) to greatly increase greenhouse emission cuts and Exxon Mobil (NYSE:) battled with an activist investor over its record on climate change.

Total’s climate strategy, which lays out its aim to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, was backed by 91.88% of shareholders voting at its annual meeting.

“This outcome is, I think, the best response to commentators who predicted, and in some cases even hoped for an investor rebellion against the company, and responds to those who act more as activists than shareholders,” Chairman and Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne said.

“This strong backing also means on our part … that we have a big commitment and will have to be very demanding,” Pouyanne added.

The rebranding was backed by 99.88% of votes.

Total is investing heavily in a pivot towards renewable energy with solar or wind power projects.

It is seeking to derive revenues from electricity production, and reduce its reliance on oil products, including with staggered targets to 2030, and mirroring moves by rivals to try and reduce emissions.

The International Energy Agency has said new fossil fuel projects must stop this year if the world wants to reach net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century, a faster pace than that envisaged so far by oil producers, including Total.

Pouyanne, who said he wanted the company to become a “green energy major”, added he did not favour more radical action as the company needed to fund its shift through revenues derived from fossil fuels.

“Without new oil projects, global oil production is set to naturally drop by about 4% to 5% every year,” Pouyanne told the shareholder meeting, while oil demand was projected to only start tailing off from 2030. “Without new oil projects, it’s highly likely that oil prices would reach new highs,” he said.

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