France’s Total quits top US oil lobby in climate split

A Total petrol station along Thika highway, Nairobi. August 5, 2020. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

France’s Total on Friday became the first major global energy company to quit the main US oil and gas lobby due to disagreements over its climate policies and support for easing drilling regulations.

Total said it would not renew its 2021 membership with the American Petroleum Institute (API) following a review of the lobby’s climate positions, describing them as being only “partially aligned” with its own.

The high-profile departure from the most powerful energy lobby comes ahead of sweeping changes in policy direction in the United States, with incoming President Joe Biden promising to tackle climate change and bring the country to net-zero emissions by 2050.

“As part of our climate ambition made public in May 2020, we are committed to ensuring, in a transparent manner, that the industry associations of which we are a member adopt positions and messages that are aligned with those of the Group in the fight against climate change”, Total Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanné said.

The withdrawal highlights a widening rift between Europe’s top energy companies, which over the past year accelerated plans to cut emissions and build large renewable energy businesses and their US rivals Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp that have largely resisted growing investor pressure to diversify. Chevron has no plans to leave the API, company spokesman Sean Comey said. Exxon was not immediately available for comment.

The announcement puts pressure on Total’s European rivals BP and Royal Dutch Shell to follow suit after resisting the move in recent years.

BP, Shell and Norway’s Equinor on Friday said they are reviewing memberships in trade organizations and how they align on climate-related issues. Shell spokesman Curtis Moore said “API is moving closer to Shell’s own stated views” on climate change.

European oil companies have in the past pointed to the API’s role in formulating industry safety and operating standards as their rationale for remaining with the group.

However, in its reasons for leaving the group, Total cited the API’s support for last year’s rollback of US regulation on emissions of methane. 


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