Environmental groups sue TotalEnergies over claims of climate marketing
A coalition of environmental organisations has filed a lawsuit in France against TotalEnergies, the country's largest energy company, accusing it of misleading consumers about its efforts to combat climate change.
TotalEnergies was served with the claim, which was to be filed before the Paris Judicial Court, and it concerns the company's "reinvention" marketing campaign. Claimants claim the campaign violated European consumer law by implying TotalEnergies can achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 while continuing to produce more fossil fuels.
Environmentalists have long been concerned about corporate "greenwashing," which they define as marketing or public relations campaigns that attempt to conceal pollution or make a company's operations appear more environmentally friendly than they actually are.
TotalEnergies told Reuters that it was putting its strategy into action "concrete way," including through investments and lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and was acting "in accordance with the goals that the company has set for itself... As a result, claiming that our strategy is "greenwashing" is incorrect."
The advertisements, which were released globally in May 2021, stated that TotalEnergies was committed to being "a major player in the energy transition" and aimed for carbon neutrality by 2050.
The campaigners claim that the company's plan to continue increasing production of fossil fuels like oil and gas, which are major contributors to man-made global warming, contradicts this.
According to a report released last year by the International Energy Agency, no new oil and gas fields should be developed beginning this year if the world is to have a chance of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050.
Claimants contend that TotalEnergies violated the European Unfair Consumer Practices Directive (UCPD), which prohibits misleading practices such as promoting false or omitting relevant information that influences consumer decision-making.
Greenpeace France, Friends of the Earth France, and Notre Affaire à Tous filed the lawsuit, which was supported by environmental law firm ClientEarth.
"We need to protect consumers from disinformation PR strategies that leave them trying to tell fact from fiction while delaying the urgent climate action we require,"
said Clara Gonzales, legal counsel at Greenpeace France.
TotalEnergies has previously stated that it expects its oil production to peak in the decade before declining, with an increase of around 3% per year by 2026, driven by the 6% per year growth of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
It intends to spend $13-15 billion per year between 2022 and 25 on developing new energies, primarily renewables and electricity, and the other half on natural gas.
More companies have made climate pledges in order to appeal to consumers, and investors and climate activists are increasingly scrutinising their actions to see if they can contribute to the world's climate goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
In the case of TotalEnergies, a leading investor group engaged with companies on climate transition plans has expressed concern about its efforts, including the lack of a target for reducing emissions from consumer use of its products.
"We've seen a huge rush to adopt this language...even oil and gas companies, which have a real challenge to get to net-zero,"
said Thomas Hale, a global public policy researcher at Oxford and co-lead of the Net Zero Tracker Project.
"Companies that take on these targets face increased scrutiny to ensure that they are truly walking the walk."
Source: Reuters news