TotalEnergies in the sights of justice. An investigation has been underway since December 2021 against the multinational oil company for “misleading commercial practices” in the field of the environment, the Paris prosecutor’s office announced on Thursday January 26, confirming information from Mediapart (article reserved for subscribers).
This investigation was opened by the economic and financial unit of the Nanterre public prosecutor’s office following a criminal complaint by several environmental defense associations. These associations (Wild Legal, Sea Shepherd France and Darwin Climax Coalitions) accuse the oil giant of degrading the air, said the prosecution.
At this stage, the prosecution is focusing on the potential offense of deceptive marketing practices, which may refer to the group’s communications promoting its climate strategy. In this field, an action had been launched by three other NGOs, including Greenpeace, in 2022. Justice must sound “the end of recreation because many companies practice this kind of greenwashing”, abounded on Friday on franceinfo Marine Calmet, lawyer, specialist in environmental rights, president of Wild Legal. “Whatever happens at the end of this preliminary investigation, it shows that companies run an increasing risk when they have this type of practice”, analyzed Clara Gonzales, lawyer for Greenpeace.
To defend itself against these accusations of greenwashing, TotalEnergies highlights “investments”, “new businesses” and a “significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions”, reduced in Europe by “23% between 2015 and 2021” . TotalEnergies adds that it now has “17 gigawatts (GW) of renewable capacity (wind, solar, etc.) installed worldwide, compared to nearly 0 GW in 2018”.
“We do not dispute them [these figures], specifies Marine Calmet, we put them in perspective with the massive investments planned in fossil fuels. The total represents 0.9% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This represents around two-thirds of France’s emissions. Of course, there is a responsibility.”
The multinational based in Paris has adopted an ambition of carbon neutrality in 2050 but always adds “together with society”, that is to say that it conditions this ambition on the climate commitment of the countries, proposing that as long as the world needed oil or gas, it would continue to supply it. And its own documents predict a barely reduced total carbon footprint by 2030, compared to 2015.
For Wild Legal, TotalEnergies “displays in its communication its objective of carbon neutrality even as the company continues to invest in highly polluting fossil fuels in France and elsewhere”.
“This communication strategy aims to deceive consumers, whereas for the vast majority of them, a company’s environmental policy is a substantial criterion in their purchasing choices,” the association believes.
This is not the first time that TotalEnergies has been targeted for its carbon footprint. In November 2022, Greenpeace already accused the group of truncating its figures. For the year 2019, the last before the effects of Covid-19, the addition of its emissions amounted, according to the group, to 455 million tonnes of CO2. A balance sheet three to four times lower than those declared by its competitors (ExxonMobil, BP), on a comparable turnover. Such a difference had intrigued Greenpeace which, for a year, had redone the calculations. According to the NGO, Total Energies would have indeed rejected more than 1.6 billion tons of CO2 in 2019.