Tear gas taints the air as TotalEnergies AGM rejects climate activist resolution

By Benjamin Mallet and America Hernandez

PARIS (Reuters) – TotalEnergies shareholders rejected an activist resolution on Friday urging faster cuts to the oil major’s greenhouse gas emissions programme after police intervened to stop climate protesters disrupting its annual general meeting.

The resolution, filed by climate group Follow This and 17 institutional investors with a total 1.1 trillion euros under management, obtained 30.44% of votes, up from a 17% vote share result in 2020, the last time a similar resolution was put forward.

Outside the venue in central Paris, the smell of teargas from earlier clashes hung in the air and police used pepper spray as they dragged some protesters away to free a path for shareholders through several hundred climate activists.

All those attending the meeting were required to place phones in sealed satchels for its duration.

“I regret that this meeting does not take place in the conditions that it should,” Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne told the meeting as it began on time. “In any case, I hope dialogue will follow.”

As climate activists have stepped up demands oil companies set tougher targets on greenhouse gas emissions, protesters tried to storm the stage of Shell’s shareholder meeting earlier this week and disrupted BP’s AGM last month.

Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told France Info radio on Friday that oil and gas companies needed to “re-invent themselves” and would have no future unless they could map a path out of fossil fuels.

The Follow This resolution opposed by TotalEnergies board, called for the company to commit to steeper absolute emissions cuts by 2030 as opposed to intensity targets that can fall as a company adds renewable assets.

It also demanded TotalEnergies include in its 2030 targets Scope 3 emissions that are released when the fuels the company sells are burned by customers, such as in planes or cars.

Follow This CEO Mark van Baal said the vote on Friday was “a great outcome and a shareholder rebellion for sure”.

“One-third of investors say Total needs to decrease emissions by 2030 and that they can’t hide behind their customers by saying Scope 3 emissions are not the company’s responsibility,” he said.

Scientists say the world needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 43% from 2019 levels by 2030 to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

TotalEnergies does not envisage a major overall reduction in client-produced emissions by 2030.

Its internal climate plan, proposing cuts from gases at its directly-owned facilities and not covering Scope 3, was approved with 88.76% of votes.

“The science is clear but Total is ignoring it,” read one banner held up by the demonstrators, who included Greenpeace activists.

Support for corporate resolutions urging alignment with the Paris Agreement has grown.

Earlier this week, roughly a fifth of Shell shareholders supported Follow This resolution, while last month backing for the group’s resolution was 17% at BP’s general meeting, slightly higher than last year.

Influential shareholder advisers ISS and Glass Lewis had given opposite recommendations for the TotalEnergies vote, with ISS recommending a vote in favour and Glass Lewis urging a rejection.

In 2022, TotalEnergies’ board prevented a similar resolution from making the agenda, citing legal issues with the proposal’s wording.

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund on Friday said it would back tougher climate targets for oil majors, but said it would oppose the activist resolution at TotalEnergies AGM.

(Reporting by Benjamin Mallet and America Hernandez, editing by Silvia Aloisi, Richard Lough and Barbara Lewis)