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Oil & Gas

TotalEnergies investors shoot down stricter climate targets after French police clashed with protesters

Shareholders of French supermajor TotalEnergies backed the company and voted against a proposal to set stricter climate targets at as police clashed with protesters at its annual general meeting on Friday.

French riot police used tear gas and pepper spray on protesters heading to the venue, with scuffles taking place between police and protesters, according to Reuters.

The vote, however, showed growing division among shareholders as rebel voters gained ground and set the highest support so far for activist resolutions among European oil majors.

TotalEnergies faced growing pressure from activists and institutional investors aligning in efforts to pressure the oil major to strengthen its climate commitments at its annual general meeting held in Paris.

A resolution tabled by Dutch activist investor Follow This and a group of institutional investors, asked TotalEnergies to align its 2030 emissions target to the Paris climate agreement and include Scope 3, or end-use, emissions in its strategy.

Only 30.44% of shareholders voted in favour, while 69.56% of investors rejected the motion, which was rejected.

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The result of the vote, however, showed what FollowThis described as “record support” for the resolution compared with an earlier 2020 motion, which at the time received only 17% of votes in favour.

Patrick Pouyanne, chief executive of TotalEnergies, said before the vote the resolution was “contrary” to the interest of the company and its shareholders.

“This resolution implies that Scope 3 could be aligned with the Paris agreement from the sole will of the company,” he told investors, adding that reducing end-use emissions would require “a concerted action of all the players in the supply chain”.

Climate protesters react after the use of tear gas during a demonstration on the outskirts of the Paris venue for TotalEnergies Annual General Meeting in Paris on May 26, 2023. Photo: AFP/SCANPIX

“Scope 3 for us is Scope 1 for airlines,” he said. “Scope 3 would make us responsible for the emissions of air transportation — we are not responsible for it.”

In the run-up to the AGM, the company had recommended shareholders to vote against the action, which was also put to investors’ vote at the recently-held general meetings of fellow supermajors Shell and BP.

FollowThis founder, Mark Van Baal, noted the motion had received the “highest [support] at a European supermajor yet”.

“We thank the 17 co-filers of the climate resolution and the investors who followed their leadership. These investors voted as true stewards of the global economy,” he added.

Shareholders make their way between climate protesters and French gendarmes during a demonstration on the outskirts of the Paris venue for TotalEnergies Annual General Meeting in Paris on May 26, 2023. Photo: AFP/SCANPIX

FollowThis’ Resolution A at TotalEnergies was backed by 17 institutional investors from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK and the US, with a total €1.1 trillion ($1.2 trillion) in assets under management, although commanding only 1.4% shares in the French major.

Several hundred protesters heading to the venue where TotalEnergies was holding the event were held back by French riot police earlier in the morning.

But the meeting ran without interruption once it was underway, unlike earlier AGMs at Shell and BP in London, where both companies were targeted by protesters in the audience, who were forcibly removed by private security as proceedings were significantly disrupted.

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