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Total Quits Leading U.S. Oil Lobby Over Climate Differences


(Bloomberg) Total SE became the first oil major to quit the influential American Petroleum Institute due to a clash on climate change policy, a sign of the pressure the U.S. lobby group is likely to come under as Washington is about to again embrace the Paris climate agreement.The move by Total is likely to increase pressure on BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc to follow suit unless the API changes its views. Both European majors said last year they planned to remain members despite highlighting some disagreements with the group, and quitting others.The American Petroleum Institute is a staple in the corridors of power in Washington, spending heavily to wield considerable influence on how Congress and the White House regulate the energy industry. Although it has softened its views in recent years, including supporting the Paris deal, the API has traditionally lobbied against oil and gas regulation, and subsidies for electric vehicles.“We thank Total for their membership in this critical forum for our industry,” API said in a statement. “Our industry’s focus continues to be on taking meaningful action and shaping policy at all levels of government to reduce U.S. emissions and ensure access to affordable and reliable energy.”

Total in particular criticized the API for supporting candidates in the last U.S. elections who backed leaving the Paris agreement, according to a statement Friday. President-elect Joe Biden has said that he plans to rejoin the accord immediately after taking office.

‘Urgent Need’

“We welcome this decision by Total, which addresses a misalignment of interests and raises serious questions for other remaining members of the API,” said Clare Richards, senior engagement manager at the Church of England Pensions Board. “There is an urgent need for legislation that enables timely delivery of the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

The French company also cited persisting divergences with the API, including its support for the rollback of U.S. regulation on methane emissions. It also mentioned the lobby’s opposition to subsidies for electric vehicles, and “differing positions” on the principle of carbon pricing.

Europe’s second-biggest oil company last year adopted a plan to eliminate most of its carbon emissions by 2050. It has invested billions of dollars on clean energy and batteries as it diverges from its oil and gas operations.

“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,” Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne said in Friday’s statement.

For its part, BP said Friday it remains committed to trying to influence associations from within and will publish a trade association update in the second quarter this year.

“We actively monitor our memberships in trade associations, especially those we view as only ‘partially aligned’ with us on climate-related issues,” the London-based oil explorer said in a statement. “We will continue to advocate for progressive policies that advance this agenda in trade associations.”

Total’s move comes just two days after the API outlined its regulatory priorities at its annual “State of American Energy” event and as it struggles to adapt to the changing political landscape in Washington.

Mike Sommers, the group’s president, said Wednesday the organization was open to working with Biden on some issues, including on methane regulation, but it is bracing for fights over electric vehicles, pipelines and oil development on federal land.

Norway’s biggest pension fund said Total’s decision to leave would put pressure on other oil companies to take similar action.

“There is simply no justification for any association with lobby groups who roll back emissions regulations and undermine urgent climate action,” said Jeanett Bergan, head of responsible investment at KLP.



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