PARIS: Police fired tear gas to disperse climate protesters trying to block an annual general meeting of French oil giant TotalEnergies in Paris today.
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.
At dawn in the French capital, dozens of protesters tried to enter a part of the street that was blocked off by police trucks to secure the concert hall where TotalEnergies was scheduled to hold its meeting.
A dozen demonstrators managed to sit on the ground in front of the venue, the Salle Pleyel, and were teargassed after ignoring three warnings issued by officers using megaphones.
Some shareholders began to enter the hall as the French company insisted that the meeting would take place while forbidding attendees and journalists to use their smartphones inside.
Protesters chanted “all we want is to knock down Total” and – in reference to rising global temperatures – bellowed “one, two and three degrees, we have Total to thank”.
Some poured a black liquid over their heads.
“We won’t let them go,” said Marie Cohuet, spokesman for climate campaigners Alternatiba.
TotalEnergies “embodies the worst of what is done in terms of the exploitation of people and the planet”, Cohuet said.
The company wanted to avoid the chaos of last year when activists prevent some shareholders from attending the annual meeting.
Climate campaigners are growing impatient with oil majors and other companies over their impact on the planet.
Energy majors 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 shouted out, “Go to hell Shell!”
BP got similar treatment, as did banking giant Barclays, which is accused of financing oil extraction.
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 today.
“Total invests in renewable energies, but the challenge is to go faster, stronger and above all faster,” she told FranceInfo radio.
TotalEnergies chief executive Patrick Pouyanne rejected criticism against his group in an interview with La Croix newspaper on Wednesday, saying the company must meet growing demand from developing nations.
“No, TotalEnergies cannot lower oil demand on its own,” he said.