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In an effort to go greener, French oil-company Total, classified as the fourth-largest oil corporation in the world, is setting goals to leave fossil fuels behind in lieu of cleaner energy methods to purportedly battle extreme climate change.

Photo Credit: Laurent Vincenti

Photo Credit: Laurent Vincenti

For the most part, France has been a major leader in the field of environmental justice. According to the International Energy Agency, France ranks fourth behind Switzerland, Sweden and Ireland as the most energy efficient country with the fewest CO2 emissions. France has since proclaimed to reduce these emissions by a further 75 percent by 2050. The country operates primarily on nuclear energy, heavily reducing greenhouse gases in the skies above Paris.

In accordance with France’s climate accords, Total is claiming that “a part of the world’s fossil fuel resources cannot be developed” if global temperatures are not to exceed increases of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Since 2012, the company has sworn off drilling in the Arctic ice pack, and Total has also stated that it will invest fewer funds in oil production from Canadian tar sands.

Alexander Shestakov, director of the World Wildlife Fund’s global Arctic program, met Total’s goals with skepticism, and criticized the company for not taking a harder stance against drilling in Arctic regions. He explains that while they may not intend to explore the Arctic as a whole, the door is being left open for exploring specific or individual areas within its shrinking boundaries.

A polar bear breaks through thin Arctic Ocean ice, August 23, 2009. (Photo Credit: Patrick Kelley / U.S. Coast Guard)

A polar bear breaks through thin Arctic Ocean ice, August 23, 2009. (Photo Credit: Patrick Kelley / U.S. Coast Guard)

“In the new strategy, they just confirmed that they are not planning to do any oil exploration in the Arctic ice pack,” said Shestakov. “It is a small nuance, but there are some parts of the Arctic that are not covered with ice – like the Barents Sea, where Norway is operating. If they put full stop after ‘the Arctic,’ that will be stronger and more interesting.”

But it wasn’t all gloom and doom from the Wildlife director, who further stated that Total executives are “trying to link their strategies and investments to climate decisions… That’s a positive sign coming from one of the world’s oil majors.”

Refusing to stop short of anything major, Total has sworn it will increase its dealings in renewable energy from three to 20 percent in the next 19 years. Within that timeframe, the company also intends to make natural gas the primary focus of its fossil fuel production.

But such action has sparked disapproval from organizations like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which alleges that while burning natural gas may produce the lowest emissions of any known fossil fuel, the leaks and emissions of methane deriving from natural gas operations make it a particularly hazardous option. While Total has pledged to end methane flaring at natural gas operations within 14 years, Sierra Club climate policy director John Coequyt also bore a harsh attitude towards the oil empire’s objectives.

New gas well opened up to flare boom on PVDII via Expro skid. (Image Credit: Ken Doerr / Flickr)

New gas well opened up to flare boom on PVDII via Expro skid. (Image Credit: Ken Doerr / Flickr)

“Sierra Club welcomes Total’s new policy changes to meet the global climate accord and reduce its role in climate disruption,” he explained in a statement. “Companies like Total are key players in the world’s transition away from dirty fuels, but the only real strategy for effectively tackling the climate crisis is to transition off of outdated dirty fuels and move toward 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”

Despite a few raised eyebrows, Total did receive praise from groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International and the Indigenous Environmental Network.

“Total’s admission that development of tar sands is inconsistent with combatting climate change highlights the absurdity of continued attempts by pipeline companies like TransCanada and Enbridge to build more tar sands pipelines,” all three expressed in a joint statement.

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