December 8, 2023

COP28: New report by and the Multinationals Observatory outlines how to reclaim control over the fossil fuel industry

Using TotalEnergies as a case study, the report “TotalEnergies: This is what a total phaseout looks like” calls on policymakers to dare to imagine a shut down of the fossil fuel industry, and puts forward concrete pathways to make it happen.

Download the report


8 December 2023, Dubaï, UAE – and the Multinationals Observatory have launched today at COP28 a new report outlining why it is necessary to reclaim control over the fossil fuel industry strategies for the world to transition to clean energy, and how to do it. 

Using TotalEnergies as a case study, the report “TotalEnergies: This is what a total phaseout looks like” proposes concrete pathways to make it happen in an equitable way that supports urgent climate action, investment in a clean energy system, and industry workers’ rights and future.

The report also highlights the strategies deployed by TotalEnergies to delay meaningful climate action, and debunks the false narratives and solutions the company is pushing to try and convince policymakers that they are part of the solution to climate change. TotalEnergies’ activities continue to have devastating climate, environmental, and socio-economic impacts, especially in regions where the company is planning new fossil fuel projects, such as the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) in Uganda and Tanzania.

Multinationals like TotalEnergies thrive on the illusion of being sovereign entities, independent of states. But their power rests on legal, political, and economic conditions—conditions that can be altered. The report delves into three ways to steer TotalEnergies towards a fossil fuel-free future. These strategies aren’t mutually exclusive and might benefit from a combined approach: 

  • A comprehensive climate, environmental, financial and lobbying regulatory reform package to ensure TotalEnergies serves public interest, not just the ones of its leaders and shareholders. 
  • A democratic takeover of the company from within, so that employees and stakeholders beyond only shareholders drive the company’s strategy. 
  • A public takeover of TotalEnergies to transform the corporation into a public interest organisation free from the pressures of the financial market, with an inclusive governance and democratic approach to driving a process of exiting fossil fuel production. 

Clémence Dubois, Associate director of global campaigns, and coordinator of the report:

“For decades, TotalEnergies and other fossil fuel giants have tried to make us believe that there is no alternative to the current fossil fuel industry, and that they are part of the solution to climate change. But fossil fuel majors remain part of the problem: they are drivers of the climate crisis, not solutions to it. A record number of close to 2500 fossil fuel lobbyists, including CEO of TotalEnergies Patrick Pouyanné, are at COP28 this year to push this version of the story. Their multiple strategies to delay meaningful climate action, as well as their plans to continue to expand their fossil fuel production and their marginal investments in renewable energy, show that the energy transition we urgently need to tackle the climate crisis won’t come from them. As the climate crisis rages on, it is urgent that we dare to imagine a world without fossil fuels – and this must start with thinking through how to concretely reclaim control over fossil fuel giants that have become too harmful, and what that looks like.” 

Olivier Petitjean, co-founder of the Multinationals Observatory and co-author of the report: 

“With this report, we want to open a debate on an idea which may seem radical but which is also, in a way, a truism: if we are to truly start phasing out fossil fuels, we must tackle the economic and political weight of the fossil fuel majors. We cannot wait for fossil fuel companies to be willing to change by themselves. Global heating and its impacts are accelerating, just as war and pandemics have done, and this could be a trigger for change, with previously unthinkable scenarios quickly becoming credible or even unavoidable. We want to challenge political leaders to imagine them, and to implement them.”

Nicolas Haeringer, Associate Director, Mouvement Partnerships,

“The business model of TotalEnergies is based on lies and on fiction. TotalEnergies has actively lied for the last 50 years. They knew as early as 1971 the causes and consequences of climate change. They’re now pretending they we won’t be able to fight climate change without their contribution. Yet the one and only meaningful contribution TotalEnergies could make it to keep fossil fuels in the ground now and forever, for TotalEnergies oil is blood oil, their gas is blood gas, their profits are blood profits. This requires bold political leadership from the French government – and we’ll do whatever we can to get there.”

Ahmed El Droubi,International Campaigns Manager, Climate Action Network International

“The fossil fuel industry has profiteered from the constriction of civic space, stripping the countries and communities of their resources and rights. It’s a systemic issue that is part of the DNA of the fossil fuel industry. We now have a system where the wealth generated from oil and gas extraction privatised, but their cost is made public. We need to hold big polluters accountable for their historic infractions and impacts in order to demand climate reparations, which is necessary for the 600 million Africans currently living without energy access to leap frog the fossil fuel era and move into a system that is 100% renewable.”

María Laura Castillo Diaz, environmental lawyer and coordinator at the Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN), Argentina:

“Failing to phase out fossil fuels keeps countries in Latin America tied to an extractivist model which limits the possibility of financing and fomenting renewables. It also reproduces and intensifies inequalities and social and environmental impacts, and transfers the load and costs of mitigation of climate change to countries that have least contributed to the crises and to future generations, and undermines their capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Fossil fuels are a blocker to the just and equitable socio-ecological transition the region needs.”

Lorraine Chiponda, Convenor, Don’t Gas Africa

“I want to call out TotalEnergies’ greenwashing. TotalEnergies is claiming to be helping African countries and their people, but the company’s neocolonial projects in the region are nothing new: they come with human rights violations, land displacement, and a plethora of environmental challenges. TotalEnergies is not helping us, but persist in pushing this false narrative in order to trap Africa in a fossil fuel economy that will have devastating impacts on people and the environment while making carbon emissions skyrocket.”

Global Witness recently published “Climate of Fear”, an investigation highlighting how TotalEnergies is implicated in repression of land and environmental defenders in East Africa. Hanna Hindstrom, Senior Investigator at Global Witness, said: 

“While we’re pleased to see TotalEnergies calling for the release of the seven students detained in Uganda, these students are among at least 47 environmental campaigners arrested in the country in just over three years for challenging oil or EACOP.

Given accusations that the company has downplayed allegations of human rights violations in this authoritarian state, including attacks on civic space, we hope Total will not simply seize the opportunity to deflect criticism without implementing change on the ground. This call cannot simply be a PR move. We must urgently see concrete action to address the issues outlined in our new report. the company must take a clear, zero-tolerance approach to all reprisals, whilst being fully transparent about how it investigates cases.”

In the lead-up to COP28, throughout November and December, and partners have organized more than 200 Power Up events worldwide, visually showcasing the global call for a renewable energy revolution. Link to Photos

For more information about Cop28 and Power Up actions globally, visit


Media contact on-site at COP28: Kim Bryan / [email protected] / +44 7770 881503

Other media requests:  Sophie Guibert / [email protected] / +336 63 21 14 72