French police fire tear gas at the protesters’ climate

Protesters outside the Salle Pleyel venue in Paris could be heard chanting “all we want is to knock down Total” and “one, two, three degrees, we have Total to thank.”

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French riot police on Friday fired tear gas at hundreds of climate activists trying to prevent the annual general meeting of the oil giant TotalEnergies from taking place.

Activists from campaign groups including, Friends of the Earth France and scientists in Rebellion had pledged to try to stop the AGM from taking place to denounce TotalEnergies’ fossil fuel expansion.

Protesters outside the Salle Pleyel venue in Paris could be heard chanting “all we want is to knock down Total” and “one, two, three degrees, we have Total to thank,” according to the AFP news agency.

It comes amid a sense of palpable frustration among climate activists during the proxy voting season, with demonstrations also taking place at British oil majors BP and Shell in recent weeks after an extraordinary run of record profits.

Clashes broke out between protesters and the police shortly before the start of the shareholder meeting, where investors ultimately rejected an activist’s decision calling on the company to align its climate targets with the landmark Paris Agreement and commit to absolute carbon emission cuts by 2030.

Police officers dispense tear gas to disperse climate activists during a protest outside the TotalEnergies SE annual general meeting (AGM) venue in Paris, France, on Friday, May 26, 2023.

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The resolution, filed by Dutch actvist shareholder group Follow This and 17 institutional investors with 1.1 trillion euros ($1.2 trillion) under management, received 30% of the vote, up from 17% the last time a similar vote was held in 2020.

“Financial institutions have stepped up their efforts to fight the climate crisis,” Tarek Bouhouch of Follow This said in a statement.

“Voting is crucial in compelling Big Oil to drive down emissions. Big Oil can make or break the Paris Climate Agreement and must respond to shareholders,” Bouhouch said.

TotalEnergies had urged shareholders to vote against the decision, saying it “does not provide a credible response to the challenges of climate change and would be contrary to the interests of the Company, its shareholders and its customers.”

The burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal, is the chief driver of the climate crisis.

Record profits

At BP’s annual general meeting last month, support for a Follow This resolution calling for tougher emission reduction targets by the end of the decade came in at just 17%, up from 15% last year.

At Shell’s shareholder meeting earlier this week, support for a similar resolution tabled by Follow This came in at 20%, the same level as in 2022.

Big Oil posted bumper profits last year, bolstered by soaring fossil fuel prices and robust demand, following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

For its part, TotalEnergies reported net profit of $36.2 billion in 2022, doubling the results of the previous year.

Shares of the company traded nearly 0.9% higher on Friday afternoon. The stock price is down roughly 5.5% year-to-date.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo