France's TotalEnergies in court again over fossil fuel projects

By Melissa Chemam - RFI
France  REUTERSStephanie Lecocq
JUN 1, 2023 LISTEN
© REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq

An historic lawsuit opened on Wednesday in Paris against the French oil and gas giant TotalEnergies. In a trial that may last over a year, a coalition of NGOs – joined by the cities of New York and Paris – is seeking a court order forcing the company to suspend new hydrocarbon projects worldwide.

The measure is aimed at obliging TotalEnergies to bring its business strategy in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

The French city of Poitiers, 16 French local authorities and six NGOs including Amnesty International France and Sherpa are supporting the lawsuit.

Sebastien Mabile, one of the coalition's lawyers, said TotalEnergies had been aware of the link between the climate crisis and its products for 50 years.

"We cannot leave them another few months or decades to align themselves, perhaps one day in the future, with the Paris Agreement," he said.

"We are not asking for any sum of money, no seizure (of assets), only alignment measures ... to save the habitability of the planet."

Ongoing campaign

The coalition of NGOS began their campaign in 2020 and were joined by the city halls of Paris and New York last year.

At the time, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also said: "To get out of this and keep the increase in global temperature below 2°C, the Paris Agreement must absolutely be respected ... With this lawsuit, we want to force a major energy player to respect the Paris Agreement." 

However Denis Chemla, a lawyer representing TotalEnergies, accused the coalition of seeking too "distort procedure", saying their arguments were not "aimed at the judge but at the press".

TotalEnergies' operations include liquefied natural gas and oil projects in the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Papua New Guinea and Uganda, where it has come under fire for a pipeline project activists say threatens a fragile ecosystem and livelihoods.

The French giant has also sparked controversy over its record net profit of $20.5 billion for last year.

TotalEnergies plans to allocate a third of its investments in low-carbon sources of energy and reach 100 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity by 2030.

 (with AFP)