PARIS: TotalEnergies shareholders on Friday backed the French oil giant’s climate strategy as it faces pressure from both environment activists and the government to speed up its switch to renewable energy.
Protesters tried to prevent investors from attending the group’s annual general assembly in Paris, but police early in the morning used tear gas to disperse those who had managed to sit in front of the concert hall where it was being held.
The demonstration was one of the latest in a series of tumultuous shareholder meetings at major corporations in Europe as activists step up pressure on companies to reduce their carbon footprints.
After three hours of debate, TotalEnergies investors attending the gathering online or in person backed the group’s climate strategy with more than 88 per cent of votes.
Nearly a third of shareholders supported a motion from a minority of investors for the oil giant to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to help meet the 2015 Paris accord’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
That motion was put forward by Follow This, a group of 17 investors who together hold almost 1.5pc of shares, but had been rejected by the oil giant.
Follow This representative Tarek Bouhouch had urged investors to support the motion to avoid “a climate collapse”.
TotalEnergies chief executive Patrick Pouyanne earlier defended the company’s climate strategy in front of a few hundred people in the French capital’s Salle Pleyel.
“The climate is at the heart of our concerns,” he said.
He said his group has done more than others to invest in renewables.
But world oil demand is growing and “if TotalEnergies doesn’t respond to this demand, others will do it for us”, he said.
Despite police blocking off the road outside the venue, a couple of hundred protesters had remained outside the concert hall as the meeting kicked off.
“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”.
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 plexiglass screens to separate off speakers on stage from the public.
Published in Dawn, May 27TH, 2023