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Activists disrupt Total AGM, demand end to fossil fuel extraction

Some 700 activists on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Paris, France, blockaded Total’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) to demand the oil major halts its profiteering from fossil fuel expansion.

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Paris police tear gas climate activists at the TotalEnergies AGM

Shareholders who arrived for the AGM and were blocked from entering the venue by climate justice activists engaged in peaceful protest. The activists were subject to violent repression from the police.

This mass action, coordinated by Alternatiba Paris, Friends of the Earth France, Attac – with the support of Greenpeace France, 350.org and Scientists in Rebellion was organised to denounce Total’s controversial projects and its greenwashing. These groups provided details of today’s action, by publishing a collective op-ed entitled “Total’ AGM will not take place” a month ago.

While disrupting the AGM, activists unfurled a banner reading “Total, les éco-terroristes c’est vous” (Total, YOU are the eco-terrorists). Speeches took place, as well as artistic animations. On the megaphone, the activists sang songs: “What we want is to overthrow Total”. Shareholders finally forced the blockage with the help of the police, not hesitating to trample the activists.

“The police force deployment was disproportionate, and the violence was unacceptable: point-blank gassing, tear gas canisters thrown into the seated crowd, clothes burned with grenades, arbitrary beatings, arrests, brutalisation of activists and journalists,” 350.org said in a statement.

According to the group, the violent response from police allowed shareholders to enter the building and therefore the AGM to be maintained.

“We condemn this unprecedented violence, which protects the private interests of Total and its shareholders to the detriment of the climate and the general interest. The demands of the demonstrators, who came to defend their right to a just and stable future, are legitimate.

“The violence experienced by peaceful activists today is a terrible reflection of the French state and climate incompetence – it is one more step towards violent authoritarianism and the criminalisation of climate activists.”

Steven Arfeuille, spokesperson for Alternatiba Paris, said: “With this blockade, we are levelling up compared to the actions of the last few months, and we warn Total: it is no longer possible to vote on its plans and to carry out its greenwashing with impunity. As Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, stated: We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator. And Total is supplying the fuel, with the blessing of the government. As long as the company doesn’t move away from fossil fuels, we’ll be there to stand in its way.”

Attac board member, Jean-François Guillon, said: “While Total was planning to celebrate its €36.2 billion profits in 2022 with champagne and petits fours, we played the spoilsport. Total prefers to use its super-profits to reward its shareholders handsomely by paying them record dividends (€9.4 billion!) and to further increase its investments in fossil fuels, but the oil major also has no qualms about tax avoidance either! Finally, let’s keep in mind that in the midst of the energy crisis, 12 million French people are struggling on a daily basis to keep warm, fill up with petrol or put food on the table.”

Total is said to be one of the world’s most aggressive developers of new oil and gas projects. According to a report published on Thursday, May 25, by Oil Change International: in 2022 Total ranked 3rd worldwide and 1st among international majors in approving new oil and gas expansions. Even up to 2030, Total plans are to maintain two-thirds of its investments in oil and gas.

The EACOP and Tilenga projects in Uganda and Tanzania are symptomatic cases of Total’s expansion strategy, as is the mega gas project in Mozambique, which could be relaunched despite a dramatic humanitarian and security context, the exploitation of shale gas in Argentina, and offshore drilling in Senegal, South Africa and Papua New Guinea.

“All these new fossil fuel projects threaten the pathway that scientists, governments and even international energy agencies have agreed is necessary for a habitable planet. Instead, Total’s ‘climate plan’ includes neither a halt to its oil and gas investments nor an exit from fossil fuels. The corporation called on its shareholders to vote against an advisory resolution tabled by 17 investors and bearing the basic demand that Total set targets for the reduction of all its greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. Total repeated this greenwashing at its AGM,” disclosed 350.

In addition, Total recently sued Greenpeace France over a report on its carbon footprint published in November 2022.

“After having maintained the denial of the impact of its activities, then fueling the doubt on the reality of climate change, Total is now attacking civil society mobilised for the climate. Total is trying to gag associations in order to divert attention, gain time and make people forget its climate change activities,” said Edina Ifticène, Fossil Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace France.

Lorette Philippot, private finance campaigner at Friends of the Earth France, stated: “The only credible climate strategy for Total is the immediate end of all new fossil fuel projects. The climate bombs that Total is in the process of setting off in the four corners of the world must not see the light of day because each of them is pushing us towards a more unliveable world. This is the case of EACOP and Tilenga, but also of Mozambique LNG. This also implies that the financial actors who are accomplices of the majors like Total, and in the first place BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole, close the floodgates of their deadly support.”

Clémence Dubois, Deputy Director of Global Campaigns for 350.org, said: “From one hemisphere to the other we are dying of unprecedented heatwaves, fires and floods: this is no accident. It is precisely the manifestation of the unlimited greed of Total and the fossil fuel industry.

“Here, in front of their general meeting, we send a strong message to the public authorities: here’s the money needed to insulate homes or develop sustainable and affordable energy for all. SOur politicians and decision-makers must not allow the fossil fuel industry to dictate the economic and political agenda for its sole benefit!”

Zaki Mamdoo, StopEACOP Campaign Coordinator, said: “Total’s greed and carelessness is driving our world to the edge of its collapse. Not only are their operations disastrous for climate, but they are also at the root of increased insecurity, violence and hardship in countless communities on the African continent. The numerous human rights violations and the loss of land and livelihood surrounding the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project is testament to this. It’s time to defund TotalEnergies and demand a deep and just energy transition for the wellbeing and prosperity of our communities and planet.”

Guillermina French, FARN, Argentina, said: “In 2021 Total Austral was one of the four most benefited companies to receive direct subsidies from the Argentine State for fossil exploitation. The amount received by Total was over USD 87.6 million. This figure represents 8 times the total amount received by the Renewable Energy Program in Rural Markets, demonstrating that the Argentine government’s obeisance to Total goes against both the energy transition and fair access to energy.”

Dickens Kamugish, Chief Executive Officer for the Africa Institute for Energy Governance, said: “Any conversation about the climate crisis in Africa is incomplete without considering how it disproportionately harms disadvantaged communities in Africa who are least responsible for the climate crisis, and yet most vulnerable to its impacts.”
“Total Energies and its shareholders should save Uganda and Tanzania from the dangers of climate change by stopping any plans for the EACOP. They should channel the billions of dollars meant for EACOP into clean energy access for women and other vulnerable groups, the ongoing climate emergency is calling on Africa to urgently shift away from their dependence on oil and gas-based energy generation and transition towards to renewable energy future as Africa’s energy future get not be deliberated on the basis of an exploitative fossil fuel regime.”

Hugo Viel, campaigner at 350.org, said: “Part of the lie that Total Energies perpetuates is that it is committed to a just energy transition to renewables, but its new strategy is mere greenwashing, trying to make us believe that the company is in transition even though 70% of its investments are still devoted to fossil fuels.”

Edina Ifticene, fossil free campaigner, Greenpeace France, said: “Total Energies recently sued Greenpeace France for a report on Total’s carbon footprint published in November 2022. After denying the impact of its activities and then spreading doubt about the reality of climate change, Total is now openly attacking civil society. Total Energies is trying to silence us and divert people’s attention from their climate wrecking business.”

David Tong, Oil Change International Global Industry Campaign Manager, said: “Total Energies’ plans and investments are strikingly inconsistent with the urgent need to phase out fossil fuels. The company’s continued focus on oil and gas production undermines efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Peer reviewed research shows that burning just the oil, gas, and coal in developed, operating fields means failure for the Paris Agreement.”

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