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Editor’s note: TotalEnergies faces criminal charges

The non-profits accuse TotalEnergies’ board, including chief executive Patrick Pouyanné, of ‘deliberately creating confusion between the demand for energy services, which indeed exists, and the demand for fossil fuels, which does not exist per se’ © REUTERS/Amr Alfiky
The non-profits accuse TotalEnergies’ board, including chief executive Patrick Pouyanné, of ‘deliberately creating confusion between the demand for energy services, which indeed exists, and the demand for fossil fuels, which does not exist per se’ © REUTERS/Amr Alfiky

The latest edition of our Sustainable Views newsletter

Dear reader,

Fossil fuel companies are in the firing line this morning.

Three French non-profits have filed a complaint against TotalEnergies’ board of directors and main shareholders at the Paris Criminal Court, just days ahead of the oil and gas major’s annual meeting. The complaint cites involuntary manslaughter, deliberate endangerment of lives, neglect to address a disaster, and biodiversity damages as alleged crimes, reports Claudia.

While climate lawsuits targeting oil and gas majors have become fairly common, pursuing criminal charges against shareholders in fossil fuel companies is not, she writes. Claire Nouvian, founder of Bloom, the non-profit leading the case, says they decided to go down the criminal route “because shareholders will only think twice about voting for new fossil fuel expansion if this reputational risk is there”.

The non-profits argue TotalEnergies’ board, including chief executive Patrick Pouyanné, is liable because it is responsible for the company’s strategic direction in continuing the expansion of fossil fuel extraction, continues Claudia. They accuse the board of “deliberately creating confusion between the demand for energy services, which indeed exists, and the demand for fossil fuels, which does not exist per se”.

The complaint also targets shareholders BlackRock and Norges Bank, claiming their past voting decisions supported climate strategies incompatible with limiting global warming to 2C, and opposed resolutions aimed at aligning TotalEnergies’ climate strategy with the Paris Agreement.

TotalEnergies is also cited in research published this morning by another non-profit, Oil Change International, which concludes the eight leading European and American oil and gas companies have no plans to stop approving new oil and gas projects in the face of climate change. Instead, they plan to hit their carbon emissions reduction targets through carbon sequestration and offsets, says the report.

The non-profit examined a number of criteria, including: whether the companies plan to stop exploration; decline production year after year; set absolute emissions reduction targets; and end lobbying, writes Florence.

The research found all of the companies’ climate plans fail to align with international agreements to reduce the global temperature rise to 1.5C, including the Paris Agreement. They were ranked “grossly insufficient” or “insufficient” for a majority of criteria, and three of the companies — Chevron, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil — were ranked “grossly insufficient” across all criteria.

Finally today, Energy Efficiency Movement managing director Mike Umiker, in an opinion supported by various leading energy-saving figures — including Dr Satish Kumar, president and executive director of the Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy, Paula Glover, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, and Brian Dean, head of energy efficiency at Sustainable Energy for All — set out a series of steps to meet the energy efficiency goal agreed at COP28 in Dubai last year.

Umiker and co argue the only way the aim to double global energy efficiency by 2030 can be achieved is to focus efforts on industry. They lay down four recommendations and insist not only would they result in significant emissions savings, but they would also come with a gross financial benefit for industry.

Until tomorrow,

Philippa

Philippa Nuttall is the editor of Sustainable Views

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