Paris police fire tear gas on protesters at oil giant’s meeting

The annual general meeting of TotalEnergies opened on Friday in Paris after police teargassed climate activists, as the oil giant also faces pressure from the French government to speed up the switch to renewable energy.

Paris police fire tear gas on protesters at oil giant's meeting
Climate protesters react after Paris police used tear gas during a demonstration outside the venue for TotalEnergies Annual General Meeting. (Photo by Geoffroy Van der Hasselt / AFP)

The demonstration caps a series of tumultuous shareholder meetings at major corporations in Europe as activists step up pressure on companies to reduce their carbon footprints.

“We regret that we had to take exceptional measures both in calling in the police and in strictly controlling access to this assembly,” TotalEnergies chief executive Patrick Pouyanne told a few hundred attendees in a concert hall in the French capital.

French police earlier in the morning used tear gas to disperse protesters who had managed to sit on the ground in front of the venue, the Salle Pleyel, but ignored three warnings to move.

A couple of hundred protesters, however, remained on either side of the street blocked off by police outside the venue, as shareholders entered the hall.

The police said four people had been detained.

“All we want is to knock down Total,” protesters chanted.

In reference to rising global temperatures, they also bellowed: “One, two and three degrees, we have Total to thank”.

Some poured a black liquid over their heads.

The company wanted to avoid the chaos of last year when activists prevented some shareholders from attending the annual meeting.

This year, the firm placed two-metre (6.5-foot) high plexiglas screens to separate off speakers on stage from members of the public at the concert hall.

It also forbade attendees and journalists from using their smartphones inside the venue.

‘Go faster’

Climate campaigners are growing impatient with oil majors and other companies over their impact on the planet.

Energy giants posted record profits last year as Russia’s war in Ukraine sent oil and gas prices soaring.

During the annual shareholders’ meeting of British group Shell on Tuesday, activists sang “Go to hell Shell!”

TotalEnergies plans to allocate a third of its investments in low-carbon sources of energy and reach 100 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity by 2030.

But France’s energy transition minister, Agnes Pannier-Runacher, urged the company to speed things up on Friday.

“Total invests in renewable energies, but the challenge is to go faster, stronger and above all faster,” she told FranceInfo radio.

Pouyanne told shareholders that “climate is at the heart of our concerns” and that his group has done more than others to invest in renewables.

But as world oil demand is growing and “if TotalEnergies doesn’t respond to this demand, others will do it for us”.

‘The worst’

Marie Cohuet, spokeswoman for climate campaigners Alternatiba, said TotalEnergies “embodies the worst of what is done in terms of the exploitation of people and the planet”, Cohuet said.

One shareholder, who gave his name as Jean-Paul, defended himself as he made his way in.

“We are all concerned by climate issues, but there are also economic aspects, employment,” he said.

TotalEnergies’ some 1.5 million individual shareholders expected to attend the meeting online or in person are to cast votes twice on climate-related issues during the assembly.

Investors are first to vote on the group’s proposed climate strategy.

They will then also be polled on a motion for TotalEnergies to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with the 2015 Paris accord’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The vote on the motion, which was put forward by 17 investors who together hold almost 1.5 percent of shares, is purely consultative.

TotalEnergies operations include liquefied natural gas and oil projects in the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Papua New Guinea and Uganda, where it has come under fire for a pipeline project activists say threatens a fragile ecosystem and livelihoods.

The French giant has also sparked controversy over posting a record net profit of $20.5 billion for last year, how much taxes it pays in France, and how much it pays Pouyanne.

A 10-percent hike on part of his salary for this year was to be discussed at Friday’s meeting.

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France’s Macron urges end to plastic pollution at global talks

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday warned that global plastics pollution was a "time bomb", as diplomats began five days of talks in Paris to make progress on a treaty to end plastic waste.

France's Macron urges end to plastic pollution at global talks

Representatives of 175 nations with divergent ambitions met at UNESCO headquarters for the second of five sessions with the aim of inking an historic agreement covering the entire plastics life cycle.

Macron urged nations negotiating a world treaty against plastic pollution to put an end to today’s “globalised and unsustainable” production model.

“Plastic pollution is a time-bomb and at the same time already a scourge today,” he said in a video message, in which he called for an end to a system where richer countries export plastic waste to poorer ones.

He added that the first priorities of the negotiations should be to reduce production of fossil-fuel-based plastics and to ban “as soon as possible” the most polluting products like single-use plastics.   

NGOs – as well as representatives of plastics companies and lobbyists, much to the chagrin of environmentalists – will also take part in the negotiations.

READ ALSO: Top court orders French govt to take more climate steps

In February 2022, nations agreed in principle on the need for a legally binding UN treaty to end plastic pollution around the world, setting an ambitious 2024 deadline.

Host country France organised a ministerial summit on Saturday with 60 countries to kick-start the talks.

“If we don’t act now, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans”, said French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.


“Combatting plastic pollution will make our lives easier, both in terms of fighting climate change and in terms of preserving our oceans and biodiversity”, noted Christophe Bechu, France’s Minister for Ecological Transition.

The stakes are high, given that annual plastics production has more than doubled in 20 years to 460 million tonnes, and is on track to triple within four decades.

Two-thirds of this output is discarded after being used once or a few times, and winds up as waste. More than a fifth is dumped or burned illegally, and less than 10 percent is recycled.

But scaling up recycling is not a silver bullet, the head of the UN Environment Programme told AFP.

“It is one of many keys that we will need to make this work,” Inger Andersen said before the talks opened. “We can’t recycle our way out of this mess.”

Policy actions to be debated during the talks include a global ban on single-use plastic items, “polluter pays” schemes, and a tax on new plastic production.

Environmental groups are encouraged global plastics pollution is finally being tackled, but are concerned the treaty may not include targets to reduce overall plastic production.

“There is a consensus on the issues at stake and the will to act”, Diane Beaumenay-Joannet, an advocate at the Surfrider Foundation, told AFP. But “the precise content of the obligations is going to be complicated, particularly as regards reducing production.”