Tear gas pollutes the air as TotalEnergies annual meeting rejects climate activists’ decision

PARIS (Reuters) – Shareholders of Total Energy on Friday rejected an activist resolution calling for faster cuts to the oil giant’s greenhouse gas emissions program after police intervened to stop climate protesters from disrupting its annual general meeting.

The resolution, introduced by climate group Follow This and 17 institutional investors with a total of €1.1tn under management, received 30.44% of the vote, up from the 17% vote result in 2020, the last time a similar resolution was introduced.

The smell of tear gas from previous clashes hung in the air outside the venue in central Paris and police used pepper spray as they dragged some protesters away to clear a path for contributors through several hundred climate activists.

All meeting attendees were asked to put their phones in sealed bags for the duration of the meeting.

“I regret that this meeting did not take place in the circumstances it should have,” Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne told the meeting as it began on schedule. In any case, I hope that dialogue will follow.”

As climate activists ratchet up demands for oil companies to set tougher targets for greenhouse gas emissions, protesters tried to storm the podium of Shell’s shareholder meeting earlier this week and disrupted BP’s general assembly last month.

Energy Minister Agnès Bagnier-Ronacher told France Info radio on Friday that oil and gas companies need to “reinvent themselves” and have no future unless they can chart a path out of fossil fuels.

The Follow This resolution, which was opposed by TotalEnergies’ board of directors, called on the company to commit to greater absolute emissions reductions by 2030 rather than to intensity targets that could fall as the company adds renewable assets.

It also required TotalEnergies to include in its 2030 goals the Scope 3 emissions released when customers burn fuels sold by the company, such as aircraft or cars.

This went on CEO Mark Van Bal said Friday’s vote was “a great result and definitely shareholder revolt”.

“A third of investors say Total needs to cut emissions by 2030 and they can’t hide behind their customers by saying Scope 3’s emissions are not the company’s responsibility,” he said.

Scientists say the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 43% from 2019 levels by 2030 to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement’s target of keeping warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

TotalEnergies does not envision a significant overall reduction in customer generated emissions by 2030.

Its internal climate plan, which proposes gas cuts at its directly owned facilities and does not cover Scope 3, was approved with 88.76% of the vote.

“The flag is clear, but Total ignores it,” read one of the banners held by the demonstrators, including Greenpeace activists.

Reuters Graphics Reuters

Growing support for corporate decisions urging compliance with the Paris Agreement.

Earlier this week, nearly a fifth of Shell shareholders supported “pursuing this decision”, while support for the group’s decision last month was 17% at BP’s general meeting, slightly higher than last year.

Influential shareholder advisors ISS and Glass Lewis made opposite recommendations for TotalEnergies’ vote, with the ISS recommending a vote for it and urging Glass Lewis to decline.

In 2022, TotalEnergies’ board of directors blocked a similar resolution from setting the agenda, citing legal issues with drafting the proposal.

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund said on Friday it would support tougher climate targets for major oil companies, but said it would oppose the decision activist TotalEnergies AGM.

Additional reporting by Benjamin Mallet and America Hernandez, Editing by Silvia Aloisi, Richard Love and Barbara Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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