“Climate activists are in their role to alert”, says Elisabeth Borne

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By John

The annual general meeting (GA) of TotalEnergies opened on Friday, May 26, around 10 a.m., despite attempts to block it by climate activists. Dozens of activists tried, at dawn, to enter the section of street passing in front of the Salle Pleyel, where the group’s GA is held, in Paris. Some of them, who had sat in front of the entrance, were dislodged by the police, giving rise to scuffles. The police also used tear gas canisters.

“We regret it, we had to take exceptional measures both in the call for the police and strict control of access to this assemblydeclared the Chairman and CEO of TotalEnergies, Patrick Pouyanné, opening the session. A number of organizations have announced that they want to disrupt the assembly and we have therefore taken measures to ensure that it can take place in the best possible conditions. » The blockage was organized by several associations including Alternatiba, Friends of the Earth, ANV-COP21, Attac, Greenpeace, Scientists in Rebellion and Extinction Rebellion.

Elisabeth Borne considered, for her part, that “climate activists” were “in their role of alerting and saying that we must speed up”. “This is also what the government is doing: we all need to speed up the ecological transition”declared the head of government on the sidelines of a trip to Côte-d’Or, recognizing the oil group for having “started its transition to renewable energies”. In the morning, the Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, also called on the group to go ” faster “. “Total invests in renewable energies, but the challenge is to go faster, stronger and above all faster”said the Minister, on Franceinfocalling the energy company to “package” on renewable energies.

TotalEnergies’ climate strategy still voted

Despite these pressures, shareholders voted with an 88.76% majority for the group’s climate strategy. Mr. Pouyanné welcomed “wide support” and one “quality debate”. This strategy foresees more investments in renewable energies and the reinforcement of the objectives of reduction of CO2 emissions.2 of its operations. The non-binding advisory climate resolution, tabled by a coalition of activist shareholders, which called on it to do more on its carbon footprint to align with the goals of the Paris agreements, was rejected, garnering 30.44% of the votes. votes cast.

Protesters for the climate dislodged by tear gas before the general meeting of TotalEnergies, May 26, 2023, in Paris.

The group recommended voting against, judging the resolution “contrary to the interests” of TotalEnergies, “of its shareholders and customers”. Even if TotalEnergies does not plan to drastically reduce its direct emissions during the decade, it intends to devote a third of its investments to low-carbon energies and reach 100 GW of renewable electricity capacity by 2030. “The climate is at the heart of our concerns”said Mr. Pouyanné earlier in the morning, defending the “credibility of the transition plan” of his group.

“Our company was the major that invested the most to build the energy model of tomorrow, which will be based on electricity” by renewable energies, he insisted, adding that he could not reduce his oil activity. “The demand for oil at the global level is growing and if it is not TotalEnergies that meets this demand, others will do it in our place”he said again, retorting, in response to the “Grumpy people who accuse us of greenwashing”that “TotalEnergies alone will not decide on customer needs”. Especially since “it is the income from hydrocarbons that allows us to invest massively and develop renewables”had already argued Mr. Pouyanné on Wednesday in an interview with the magazine Challenges.

“Peace activists”

Before the opening of the general meeting of TotalEnergies, on May 26, 2023, in Paris.

If no activist managed to enter Salle Pleyel, one person among the shareholders briefly protested in the room during the general meeting, without disrupting the session. Endowed with shares by inheritance, she explained to Agence France-Presse, she just had time to show her sign “Total destroyed, the banks finance, we resist”.

The demonstrators then remained nearby, about a hundred on each side of the street segment, chanting slogans, before dispersing around noon. Six people were arrested, police said. “As soon as we arrived at 6 a.m., there was enormous police repression, we were gassed, we were walked on… Yet we are non-violent”, denounced Steven Sasha Arfeuille, spokesperson for Alternatiba. The CRS fired two tear gas canisters at the militants, “one of which bounced off an activist’s cap and burned another’s leg”, reported Alternatiba Paris activist Hélène Martinelli. She herself was pushed violently to the ground, injuring her knees. The LCI Journalists Society protested the fate of one of its videographers “brutally pushed aside then pushed to the ground by security”.

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“We do not understand this violence by the police against peace activists to defend a private company that destroys the environment and flouts human rights”asks Juliette Renaud, campaign manager for Friends of the Earth, citing the Eacop oil pipeline megaproject in Uganda and Tanzania which has displaced more than 100,000 people, not all of whom have yet been compensated.

The group is present in numerous liquefied natural gas and oil projects in the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Papua and Uganda. “We did not know how to anticipate”conceded Mr. Pouyanné to Challenges about this controversy, which adds to many others for the group, also criticized for its record profit of 20.5 billion dollars (19.12 billion euros) in 2022, its taxes in France or the CEO salary. A 10% increase in his compensation for 2023 is also on the agenda of the general meeting.

This TotalEnergies meeting comes at the end of a stormy GA season, where activists have stepped up actions against large groups, such as competitors Shell and BP or Barclays bank, accused of financing the expansion of energy projects. hydrocarbons. All against a backdrop of staggering profits: together, the majors BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and TotalEnergies posted more than 40 billion dollars in profits this quarter, after a grandiose year 2022.