Total is ditching its membership of the American Petroleum Institute (API) as the key oil and gas representative body's position on climate issues is at odds with those of the French supermajor, which is targeting net-zero emissions by 2050.

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The Paris-based giant said on Friday it will not renew its membership of the decades-old group after what it said was "a detailed analysis of the climate positions" of the API.

Election candidate support in US

The decision to quit the API is in part due to the industry body's support during last year's US elections — including the presidential election, which saw Democrat Joe Biden unseat Republican Donald Trump — for candidates that argued against US participation in the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change.

Total completes a review annually of the main industry associations of which it is a member, "to ensure that they are aligned with [its] climate positions".

Last year, Total committed to reaching net-zero emissions from its worldwide operations by 2050 or sooner.

As part of this target, it is aiming for net-zero emissions across all its production and energy products used by customers in Europe by 2050 or before — encompassing Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

Total alignment review

Total's annual alignment review of association memberships is based on six key points:

  • Total's science-based position that the link between human activity and climate change is an established fact;
  • its support for the objectives of the Paris Agreement;
  • the company's belief in the necessity to implement carbon pricing;
  • its confidence in the key role that natural gas plays in the energy transition;
  • Total's support for policies and initiatives that promote the development of renewable energy;
  • the company's support for the development of carbon dioxide capture and storage.

Reviews carried out in 2019 and 2020 showed that the API's positions were only "partially aligned" with Total's positions at that time.

'Divergences'

"Certain divergences, which have been discussed within the association, remain today," Total said on Friday.

"Regarding the role of natural gas, API maintains its support for the rollback of US regulation on methane emissions, which [Total] opposed in November 2019," it said.

Another divergence is the API's membership of the Transportation Fairness Alliance, "which is opposed to subsidies for electric vehicles", Total said.

On the issue of carbon pricing, "API expresses differing positions to those of Total", the French supermajor contended.

Aiming for transparency

Although acknowledging the API's "considerable contribution, for over a century, to the development of our industry", Total chief executive Patrick Pouyanne said on Friday: "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".

Pouyanne added: "This transparency responds to our stakeholders' expectations, as well as being an essential guarantee of the credibility of our strategy."

In a response sent to an Upstream enquiry, an API spokesperson said: “We thank Total for their membership in this critical forum for our industry.

"We believe that the world’s energy and environmental challenges are large enough that many different approaches are necessary to solve them, and we benefit from a diversity of views.

'We do not support subsidising energy'

"As a member-driven organisation, we do not support subsidising energy because it distorts the market and ultimately proves harmful to consumers.

"Our industry’s focus continues to be on taking meaningful action and shaping policy at all levels of government to reduce US emissions and ensure access to affordable and reliable energy."

Total E&P USA Inc continues to appear on a list of API members currently available on the API's website.

In February last year, UK supermajor BP severed ties with a trio of oil and gas trade groups — American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, the Western Energy Alliance and the Western States Petroleum Association — although it maintained its ties with the API.

Responding to the news of Total's exit from API, Charlie Kronick, senior climate adviser for Greenpeace UK said: “All eyes will now be on BP and Shell, which have both made a lot of noise about leaving trade groups that don’t align with their climate ambitions.

“Yet BP and Shell both remain members of the API — which has time and again thwarted policies that would help save our climate. This is clear hypocrisy, they can’t have it both ways."