Press Kit

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Today, three NGOs, BLOOM (France), Alliance Santé Planétaire (France), and Nuestro Futuro (Mexico) and eight climate change victims filed a criminal case in Paris against TotalEnergies’ board of directors and main shareholders for their contribution to climate change and its fatal impact on human and non-human lives. In the context of intensifying climate disasters and just three days before TotalEnergies’ Annual General Meeting, this legal action could set a precedent in the history of climate litigation as it opens the way to holding fossil fuel producers and shareholders responsible before criminal courts for the chaos caused by climate change.

TotalEnergies, the world’s sixth biggest carbon major, its board of directors and its main shareholders are being sued for deliberately endangering the lives of others, involuntary manslaughter, neglecting to address a disaster, and damaging biodiversity. Each offense is punishable by at least one year of imprisonment and a fine. The prosecutor will have discretion to open a judicial investigation and to determine the roster of individuals facing prosecution. Nonetheless, the complaint filed today targets the board of directors of TotalEnergies, which determines the Group’s strategic direction including its CEO Mr. Patrick Pouyanné, as well as its main shareholders who voted in favour of climate strategies incompatible with limiting global warming to 2°C and against resolutions aiming at aligning the Group’s climate strategy with the Paris Agreement. These include Total’s largest shareholder Blackrock and 6th largest shareholder Norges Bank.

The NGOs and eight plaintiffs hope to establish the criminal liability of TotalEnergies’ directors and shareholders for their contribution to climate change and to have them condemned for past decisions, which they took despite knowing they would trigger tremendous casualties and environmental damage.

This case also seeks to put a definitive halt to the expansion of fossil fuel extraction, which is leading to an unprecedented situation: a “globocide”, i.e. the irreversible disruption of the Earth System and the biosphere as a whole. Additionally, plaintiffs wish to obtain recognition that certain persons or entities like TotalEnergies’ board of directors and main shareholders hold a superior responsibility in the global destruction of the world as we know it.

Rising sea levels and submerged coastlines, deadly heat waves, mega-fires, devastating hurricanes, floods and landslides: the number of reported weather-related disasters has multiplied by five over the past 50 years, impacting the lives of the eight plaintiffs from Australia, Zimbabwe, France, Belgium, the Philippines, Greece and Pakistan as well as that of million other human beings and billions of animals. The disasters that ravaged their lives, such as the 2019 Australian bushfires, the 2021 European floods, and the 2022 Pakistan floods, have undergone scientific attribution studies, which concluded that climate change made each of them stronger and more likely to occur.

Scientists have established that so-called ‘natural’ disasters are less and less natural: their increase in intensity and frequency is a direct consequence of climate change, 80% of which is due to fossil fuels.

Although the International Energy Agency has recommended to halt all new fossil fuel projects since 2021 to keep to a 1.5°C pathway, TotalEnergies has kept opening oil and gas sites across the planet. It has even become the second most expansionist fossil fuel company in the world. The scientific community has determined that opening new fossil fuel projects is not compatible with limiting temperature warming to viable thresholds.

Despite being perfectly aware that climate change kills, the directors and shareholders of the multi-billion-dollar multinational have made the choice to expand oil and gas production for a single reason: to maximize profits.

At the 2023 Annual General Meeting, the Board of Directors even called on its shareholders to vote against the resolution to align TotalEnergies’ emissions with the Paris Agreement. This crucial resolution was rejected by 70% of shareholders.

Next the prosecutor has three months to decide whether to open a judicial investigation. If a decision is made to dismiss the complaint, or if no decision has been taken, the plaintiffs can lodge their complaint directly to an investigating judge.

NGOs supporting our climate litigation

Action Justice Climat
Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice
Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action
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