Total, main basse sur Polytechnique - Action du 12.03.2020
Communiqué de presse12 mars 2020

[Action] Friends of the Earth France, Greenpeace and Action Climat Paris blocked the Polytechnique’s board of directors meeting to demand that it rejects Total’s building project on campus.

At around 8:30 am this morning, in Saclay, France, 67 activists from Friends of the Earth France, Greenpeace France, and Action Climat Paris condemned Total’s plan to settle its R&D department in the heart of the campus of this prestigious French grandes écoles in engineering.

Total : takeover on Polytechnique university

During the meeting of the board of directors of the Polytechnique university, the activists deployed banners in the main hall declaring ‘Total: Hostile takeover of the climate’ and ‘Polytechnique, not for sale’, while outside the building, activists displayed a 30 meters banner carrying the message “Total: takeover on Polytechnique university”.

Covert influence on future decision makers

For months, Polytechnique students have been mobilizing against this attempt by Total to occupy their university 1, but are silenced due to their military status. This weekend, an op-ed signed by the alumni and published in the national newspaper Le Monde declared that this project was a direct threat to the independence of Polytechnique. They asked:

“Could we imagine a Free R&D center in the middle of Télécom Paris, Monsanto located on the campus of AgroParis Tech, Pernod Ricard in the faculty of medicine or Nexter at the Special Military School of Saint-Cyr ?”

“What is at stake during this board of directors meeting goes beyond a simple real estate issue. This building, sponsored by Total, is clearly designed as a Trojan horse for the transnational oil company. It is looking to insert itself in an university where future decision-makers on French energy policy are being educated. These future leaders will have the opportunity to take up positions as advisers to ministers, or as senior civil servants in the government administrations, or senior managers in the energy industry”, says Edina Ifticène, Greenpeace France oil campaigner. “The Polytechnique’s leadership must make sure it does not allow itself to endorse the oil giant’s agenda, one that is characterized by its effort to slow down the country’s clean energy transition and the fight against climate change”.

Total, in contradiction with the fight against climate change

Two days before the March 14th climate march, as millions of people, including youth and students, are preparing to take to the streets around the world, it is crucial to reiterate that Total’s oil & gas expansion plans are incompatible with the fight against climate change.

“‘Total tries to green its image through this kind of sponsorship, because the company is struggling to recruit young talents. Total deliberately chooses to promote its minimal investments in renewable energy whereas the core of its business model remains the fossil fuel production. In 2019, more than 90% of Total’s investments still went to oil and gas. Meanwhile, Patrick Pouyanné, TOTAL’s CEO, persists in perpetuating the green myth that fossil gas is a clean energy », comments Cécile Marchand, climate campaigner at Friends of The Earth France.

Students are mobilizing to condemn these attempts by the oil sector to infiltrate their institutions of higher learning. In France, Sciences-Po students, who have joined the Fossil Free movement, have already asked the school’s administration to end its financial partnership with Total. In the meantime, the “Green wake-up manifesto”,2 initiated by students engaged in the fight against climate change, has now gathered the signatures of more than 32 500 students from universities among which HEC Paris, Agroparis Tech, Centrale Supelec or Ecole Normale Suéprieure. The manifesto notably calls on students to choose employers that don’t have negative impact on climate change or biodiversity.