Climate activists, who disrupted TotalEnergies’ Annual General Meeting, and the government put pressure on the oil company on Friday to move more quickly away from fossil fuels. The French Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, has called on the Group to “pull out all the stops” on renewable energies. “Total is investing in renewable energies, but the challenge is to go faster, stronger and, above all, faster”, declared the Minister on FranceInfo, for whom oil and gas companies “need to reinvent themselves and move away from fossil fuels”.
The company is due to open its annual shareholders’ meeting at 10:00 a.m., in a Paris concert hall that has been protected by security guards, barriers and police since the previous day. At dawn, dozens of demonstrators tried to enter the stretch of street in front of the Salle Pleyel, in the beautiful Parisian neighborhoods. Around ten of them, seated in front of the entrance, were dislodged by the police, who ended up spraying tear gas into the middle of the group. Demonstrators nevertheless stayed close by, around a hundred on each side of the section of street blocked by police and gendarmerie trucks. Four people were arrested, according to the police.
“The AGM must be held”, TotalEnergies repeated on Friday morning, as the first shareholders arrived and entered the premises in dribs and drabs, greeted by the cries of protesters. One of them, Jean-Paul (who doesn’t want to give his name), explained to AFP his “ecological sensitivity”: “We’re all concerned by climate phenomena, but there are also economic and employment aspects. It’s more complicated than that. “Assassins! Criminals!” some demonstrators shouted at shareholders trying to enter the hall. “We won’t give up on them”, said Marie Cohuet, spokesperson for the Alternatiba association, for whom the company “embodies the worst of what is being done in terms of exploiting people and the planet”.
The blockade is being organized with other associations including Amis de la Terre, ANV-COP21, Attac, Greenpeace, Scientifiques en rébellion and Extinction Rebellion. This meeting comes at the end of a season of stormy AGMs, during which actions against the major groups have multiplied against a backdrop of staggering profits: together, BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and TotalEnergies posted profits of over $40 billion this quarter, after a grandiose 2022. Inside, TotalEnergies prohibited shareholders and journalists from using their cell phones, forcing them to leave certain personal belongings at the entrance. In an unprecedented move, 2-metre-high Plexiglas panels have been erected between the stage where the directors will be seated and the audience.
The 1.5 million or so individual shareholders, present or online, will be asked to vote twice on climate: once on the Group’s climate strategy, which is expected to be adopted, and another, consultative, from the activist shareholder organization Follow This, which is calling on TotalEnergies to align its emissions reduction targets with the 2015 Paris Agreement, to limit global warming to +1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
The 17 investors, who hold nearly 1.5% of TotalEnergies, include La Banque Postale AM, Edmond de Rotschild AM and La Financière de l’Echiquier. Although the Group does not plan to significantly reduce its direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions within the decade, it does intend to devote a third of its investments to low-carbon energies and reach 100 GW of renewable electricity capacity by 2030. In an interview with La Croix on Wednesday, Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanné rejected the criticism, explaining that he had to meet the growing demand from developing countries. “No, TotalEnergies can’t reduce demand for oil on its own,” he insists, calling on us to focus on “the end of coal”.
TotalEnergies is involved in numerous liquefied natural gas and oil projects in the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Papua New Guinea and Uganda, where the controversial Eacop heated pipeline project has become a media symbol of the anti-oil struggle. This controversy is one of many for the major, criticized for its record profits of $20.5 billion (€19.12 billion) in 2022, its taxes in France and the CEO’s salary. A 10% increase in his remuneration for 2023 is also on the AGM agenda.