French riot police on Friday fired tear gas at hundreds of climate activists trying to prevent the annual general meeting of oil giant TotalEnergies from taking place.
Activists from campaign groups including 350.org, 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 are poised to vote on a resolution calling on the company to align its climate targets with the landmark Paris Agreement and commit to absolute carbon emission cuts by 2030.
The burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal, is the chief driver of the climate crisis.
TotalEnergies has urged shareholders to vote against the resolution, which was tabled by Follow This — a small Dutch activist investor with stakes in several Big Oil companies.
The oil major says the proposed resolution “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.”
Follow This founder Mark van Baal says TotalEnergies has “no plan to drive down emissions this decade. Therefore, we expect that long-term and climate-conscious investors will exercise the only power they have as shareholders: the power of the vote.”
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 slightly higher on Friday morning. The stock price is down roughly 6.3% year-to-date.