"The problem ... it's fossil fuels themselves, period," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, pointing in June to oil, gas and coal as responsible for the furnace that set Hawaii, Canada and Greece ablaze this summer.

Fossil fuels are "incompatible" with the survival of humanity, added Mr. Guterres, who is hosting in September in New York an international summit for climate ambition even before COP28 chaired by a Gulf oil company boss.

A bullet taken up by Greenpeace in a report published Wednesday which accuses European gas and oil companies of "doing nothing" for the energy transition and "not respecting their climate commitments at all".

According to the NGO, which analyzed the 2022 results of the 12 major European oil and gas companies, 92.7% of their investments on average were spent on fossil fuels last year. And only 7.3% were directed towards "sustainable energy production and low-carbon solutions".

Greenpeace also criticises the fact that the production of renewable electricity – which does not emit CO2 and therefore does not contribute to warming the planet – of these 12 companies represents only 0.3% of the volume of energy they produce, compared to 99.7% from oil or gas.

"Changing course"

The NGO denounces the lack of "coherent strategy" of these majors while most of them have committed to become carbon neutral by 2050, and that they have reaped historic profits in 2022.

Greenpeace is calling on European governments to implement "strict regulation of the fossil fuel industry" to force it "to change course" by "stopping all new oil and gas exploration projects", and by "reducing its production of fossil fuels".

"Less than 1%" of TotalEnergies' energy production "came from renewable energy sources" in 2022, says the NGO, while 88% of its investments were still directed towards fossil fuels and the group plans to "increase its gas and oil production in the coming years".

Figures not denied by the French giant of hydrocarbons, which rather highlights the progress: "The investments of TotalEnergies in the energy transition have increased from 2 billion euros in 2020 to 3 billion in 2021, then 4 billion in 2022," said the group in a brief response sent to AFP.

"In 2023, TotalEnergies will invest nearly €5 billion in renewable and low-carbon energies, and will thus devote for the first time more investments in low-carbon energies than in new hydrocarbon projects," adds the French group.

"TotalEnergies is the oil group most involved in the energy transition," CEO Patrick Pouyanné said in an interview with the JDD in mid-June.

Oil companies are "forced to pay high dividends for pension funds to keep their shares," warns Robert Bell, professor of management at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York in an article published on August 19 in the daily Le Monde.

In particular, it shows how Shell "fell into the trap of the stock market", with the ouster of its "visionary" CEO, engineer Ben van Beurden, who "committed the unpardonable sin of cutting dividends" as he tried to "turn the company into a renewable energy giant".

Same case for BP "which also had a visionary CEO", according to Mr. Bell: "he changed the name of the company to Beyond Petroleum", made "significant investments in renewable energies" before "suddenly resigning" for a private matter. "Subsequently, the company refocused on oil," Bell said.

The expert doubts the assurances of oil companies on their commitments in terms of energy transition. "It is doubtful that an oil company can lead the world out of oil," he quipped.

© 2023 AFP