They were faced with violent repression by the police which was securying the area from the beginning. This mass action, coordinated by Alternatiba Paris, Friends of the Earth France, Attac, and with the support of Greenpeace France, 350.org and Scientists in Rebellion, was organized to denounce Total’s devastating projects and its aggressive greenwashing.
They had warned about the action, by publishing a collective op-ed entitled « Total’ AGM will not take place » a month ago. They were there.
700 non-violent activists have been disrupting the holding of Total’s AGM in front of the Salle Pleyel in Paris. They unfurled a banner reading “Total, les éco-terroristes c’est vous” (Total, YOU are the eco-terrorists). Speeches took place, as well as artistic animations. On the megaphone, the activists sing songs: “What we want is to overthrow Total”. Shareholders finally forced the blockage with the help of the police, not hesitating to trample the activists.
The police force deployment was massive and the violence particularly strong from the first minutes: point-blank gassing, tear gas canisters thrown into the seated crowd, clothes burned with grenades, arbitrary beatings, arrests, brutalization of activists and journalists… The police tried to dislodge the activists on numerous occasions.
This severe repression allowed shareholders to enter the building and therefore the AGM to be maintained. We condemn this unprecedented violence, which protects the private interests of Total and its shareholders to the detriment of the climate and the general interest. The demands of the demonstrators, who came to defend their right to a just and stable future, are legitimate. This violence is a terrible recognition of the french state climate incompetence, and one more marker in the slide towards violent authoritarianism and the criminalization of climate activists.
Steven Arfeuille, spokesperson for Alternatiba Paris: « With this blockade, we are leveling up compared to the actions of the last few months, and we warn Total: it is no longer possible to vote on its plans and to carry out its greenwashing with impunity. As Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, stated : We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator. And Total is supplying the fuel, with the blessing of the government. As long as the company doesn’t move away from fossil fuels, we’ll be there to stand in its way ».
This action is vital, because every new fossil fuel project is another blow to the very possibility of preserving our living conditions on Earth.
Attac board member Jean-François Guillon said: « While Total was planning to celebrate its €36.2 billion profits in 2022 with champagne and petits fours, we played the spoilsport. Total prefers to use its super-profits to reward its shareholders handsomely by paying them record dividends (€9.4 billion!) and to further increase its investments in fossil fuels, but the oil major also has no qualms about tax avoidance either! Finally, let’s keep in mind that in the midst of the energy crisis, 12 million French people are struggling on a daily basis to keep warm, fill up with petrol or put food on the table ».
Total is one of the world’s most aggressive developers of new oil and gas projects. According to a report published yesterday by the NGO Oil Change International, in 2022 Total ranked 3rd worldwide and 1st among international majors in approving new oil and gas expansions. Even up to 2030, Total plans are to maintain two-thirds of its investments in oil and gas.
Total thus plans to develop new climate bombs all over the world. The EACOP and Tilenga projects in Uganda and Tanzania are symptomatic cases of Total’s expansion strategy, as is the mega gas project in Mozambique LNG, which could be relaunched despite a dramatic humanitarian and security context, the exploitation of shale gas in Argentina, or offshore drilling in Senegal, South Africa and Papua New Guinea.
All these new fossil fuel projects do not respond to the recommendations of scientists, in particular the IPCC and the International Energy Agency, which clearly indicate that it is imperative that they do not see the light of day if we hope to stay below the 1.5°C global warming limit.
But this immediate imperative is being brushed aside by Total, whose « climate plan » includes neither a halt to its oil and gas investments nor an exit from fossil fuels. The company even called on its shareholders to vote against an advisory resolution tabled by 17 investors and bearing the basic demand that Total set targets for the reduction of all its greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. Total repeated this greenwashing at its AGM.
In addition, Total recently sued Greenpeace France over a report on its carbon footprint published in November 2022. « After having maintained the denial of the impact of its activities, then fueling the doubt on the reality of climate change, Total is now attacking civil society mobilized for the climate. Total is trying to gag associations in order to divert attention, gain time and make people forget its climate change activities », says Edina Ifticène, Fossil Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace France.
The activists’ demands are very clear. They are based on scientific consensus. Lorette Philippot, private finance campaigner at Friends of the Earth France, concludes: « The only credible climate strategy for Total is the immediate end of all new fossil fuel projects. The climate bombs that Total is in the process of setting off in the four corners of the world must not see the light of day because each of them is pushing us towards a more unlivable world. This is the case of EACOP and Tilenga, but also of Mozambique LNG. This also implies that the financial actors who are accomplices of the majors like Total, and in the first place BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole, close the floodgates of their deadly support ».
According to Clémence Dubois, Deputy Director of Global Campaigns for 350.org: « From one hemisphere to the other we are dying of unprecedented heatwaves, fires and floods: this is no accident. It is precisely the manifestation of the unlimited greed of Total and the fossil fuel industry. Here, in front of their general meeting, we send a strong message to the public authorities: here’s the money needed to insulate homes or develop sustainable and affordable energy for all. SOur politicians and decision-makers must not allow the fossil fuel industry to dictate the economic and political agenda for its sole benefit ! »
After more than 6 hours of blockade, the activists calmly left the site. They made their message heard loud and clear: faced with the powerful who are destroying lives and the planet, citizens won’t let them.