Climate protesters

Climate protesters pour oil over themselves during a demonstration on the outskirts of the Paris venue for TotalEnergies Annual General Meeting on May 26, 2023.

(Photo: Geoffroy Van der Hasselt/AFP via Getty Images)

French Protest 'Climate-Wrecking Projects and Massive Profits' of TotalEnergies

"Total's record-breaking profits come at a steep cost: environmental devastation, human rights abuses, and climate chaos," said one advocacy group. "It's time to hold them accountable for their insatiable pursuit of wealth!"

Climate campaigners marched through central Paris Friday in the latest attempt to disrupt a shareholder meeting held by a major fossil fuel company, demanding that oil giant TotalEnergies adopt a resolution to sharply increase the pace of its greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Advocacy groups including, Greenpeace, Scientist Rebellion, and Friends of the Earth France joined a reported 700 demonstrators outside the Salle Pleyel, the venue of Total's annual general meeting, with campaigners chanting, "All we want is to knock down Total" and "One, two, three degrees, we have Total to thank"—a reference to planetary heating and scientists' warnings that fossil fuel extraction must be drastically reduced in order to keep warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Banners carried by the protesters read, "The science is clear but Total is ignoring it" and "Floods, heatwaves, drought, pandemics: The world according to Total."

Police targeted the demonstrators with tear gas and pepper spray, with some people being dragged away from the Salle Pleyel—moves that were condemned as "outrageous" by the campaign group Stop East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), of which Total is the lead shareholder.

"Police resorted to extreme measures, dropping a tear gas grenade amidst a group of peaceful, seated, handcuffed activists at Total's AGM blockade," said the group. "This excessive force against non-violent individuals is utterly unacceptable!"

Inside the meeting, the Dutch activist shareholder group Follow This pushed investors in Total to adopt a resolution committing the company to include Scope 3 emissions—those caused by the burning of Total's products by customers, such as airlines, or drivers—in its 2030 emissions targets and steeper absolute emissions cuts.

The resolution garnered the support of about 30% of shareholders, nearly doubling its support in 2020, the last time such a proposal was put forward. Seventeen investors who control a total of $1.2 million in the company voted in support of the resolution.

Follow This CEO Mark van Baal, whose group's motto is "Change from the inside," called the vote "a great outcome" and evidence of a growing "shareholder rebellion."

"One-third of investors say Total needs to decrease emissions by 2030 and that they can't hide behind their customers by saying Scope 3 emissions are not the company's responsibility," he toldFrance24.

The final vote on Total's climate pledge, however, approved emissions cuts only at the company's directly-owned facilities and garnered more than 88% of shareholder votes.

Greenpeace France on Friday acknowledged that Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher toldFrance Info radio as the meeting convened that fossil fuel companies will have no future unless they shift to renewable energy and urged companies including Total to "re-invent themselves."

"But you know that these companies won't do anything without legal constraint," said the group. "We therefore expect strong political acts."

In the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2022 report, scientists said the world needs to reduce fossil fuel emissions by 43% from 2019 levels by 2030 in order to meet the Paris climate agreement's target of limiting planetary heating to less than 2°C.

As scientists and advocates have demanded companies including Total reduce their emissions, the company reported a net profit of $36.2 billion in 2022, doubling its earnings in the previous year.

"Total's record-breaking profits come at a steep cost: environmental devastation, human rights abuses, and climate chaos," said Stop EACOP. "It's time to hold them accountable for their insatiable pursuit of wealth!"

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