A large group of TotalEnergies shareholders called on the French oil and gas company to speed up efforts to transition to cleaner energy at an annual meeting marred by protests and clashes between police and climate activists.
More than 30 percent of investors supported the resolution filed by Dutch activist shareholder Follow This Total to reduce its emissions at a faster pace by 2030.
The rebuke — significant by ordinary annual shareholder meeting standards — echoes other calls for faster transition plans at competitors. including Shell. A similar activist proposal at Total in 2020 received support from 17 percent of investors.
The meeting of shareholders of major oil companies became the stage for increasingly strong climate protests both outside and inside the premises.
Total’s meeting in central Paris on Friday was tense as dozens of climate activists tried to block the entrance but were dispersed by police using pepper spray and tear gas.
Small groups of protesters later gathered outside the venue amid a heavy police presence. They chanted slogans against the Total pipeline project in Uganda and Tanzania and brandished placards targeting the group and the banks that financed some of the projects.
Total CEO Patrick Pouyanné hit out at “grumps” who have accused the company of greenwashing as he defended the company’s investments in wind and solar power, along with a greater focus on gas from oil as a transition fuel.
“We are confident in the credibility of our climate change plan,” Pouyanné said. He added that if Total suddenly sold oil assets, less climate-minded rivals would buy them, which would not be in the interests of shareholders or the planet.
Follow This called on Total to do more to reduce its emissions by 2030, particularly those known as Scope 3, which cover the carbon emissions produced by a product over its lifetime. The company has proposed to end new oil and gas projects as a first step.
Pouyanné hit out at Scope 3, saying there are limits to what a company alone can do to influence what its clients need. “You want us to be responsible for the demand in air transport?” he said.
Like many of its peers, Total is shifting more of its budget to clean energy. It will spend $5 billion on renewable energy assets this year, up from more than $4 billion, although most of its $16 billion to $18 billion in investments is in other areas, including oil.
Some investors praised Total for the shift, but signaled that momentum should continue at a faster pace than the company has so far indicated.
“The solution lies in the rapid expansion of affordable and reliable clean energy,” said Lloyd McAllister, head of sustainable investments at Carmignac. The asset manager voted against Total’s climate targets on the grounds that they were not clear and not ambitious enough, and also against the Follow This resolution, saying it was too prescriptive and could lead to unintended consequences.
Pouyanné, which complained about the appreciation gap The company said on Friday that US shareholders made up about 46 percent of its institutional investors, compared with a third four or five years ago, which affected the company because it was listed in Europe and not in the US. However, the Frenchman said moving the Total exchange to the US was out of the question, partly for political reasons.
ExxonMobil and Chevron are scheduled to hold shareholder meetings next week.