French oil and gas company Total has decided to pull out from coal production and marketing, following approval from the South African Government for the sale of its coal mining operations.

Total signed an agreement last year to sell Total Coal South Africa to local company Exxaro.

Total chief executive officer Patrick Pouyanné publicly pledged on 1 June that "Faced with the issue of climate change, Total is committed to promoting the use of natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel, especially compared to coal, which emits twice as much greenhouse gas when used to generate power.

"We cannot claim to be providing solutions to climate change while continuing to produce or market coal, the fossil fuel that emits more greenhouse gas than any other."

By 2016-end, the company plans to divest its coal marketing operations and will no longer be involved in the coal business.

Total was one of the pioneers in Europe which urged governments around the world to introduce a pricing system for carbon emissions. As part of its plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it will focus on increasing the percentage of natural gas and development of solar energy.

Total will improve the energy efficiency of its facilities, products as well as services, and facilitate more access to sustainable energy for as many people as possible, through a social business ‘Awango by Total’ that retails solar lamps.

Further, the company plans to work with others and support international initiatives.

Image: The Total building (Total HQ) in la Défense near Paris, France. Photo: courtesy of Tangopaso