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Environmental groups sue TotalEnergies over climate marketing claims -Breaking


© Reuters. Pictured is the logo of TotalEnergies, a French oil-and gas company. It can be seen at an electric vehicle charging station and petrol station in Courbevoie, France. June 22nd, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Simon Jessop and Gloria Dickie by Benjamin Mallet

LONDON/PARIS – An international group representing environmental groups has sued France’s biggest energy company TotalEnergies. It claims it deceived consumers regarding its climate efforts.

TotalEnergies has received the claim. It was due to be filed at the Paris Judicial Court. The claimants allege that the TotalEnergies campaign violated European consumer law. It suggested TotalEnergies could reach net zero carbon emissions in 2050 while still burning more fossil fuels.

The practice of “greenwashing”, as corporate marketing and public relations attempts to disguise pollution or show that a company is more environmentally-friendly, has been criticized by environmentalists for years.

TotalEnergies stated to Reuters that it had implemented its strategy “concretely”, through investments, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other actions. It also said the company was adhering to the goals set by itself. Our strategy does not appear to be “greenwashing”, it is incorrect.

Globally, TotalEnergies launched its May 2021 advertisement. It stated it was committed to the “major player in the transition to energy” and that they were aiming at carbon neutrality by 2050.

Campaigners claim that the plan of Shell to increase production of oil and natural gas, which are key contributors to human-made global warming, was against this.

The International Energy Agency reported last year that no new oil or gas fields should have been developed after this year, if there is to be any chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050.

TotalEnergies is accused of violating the European Unfair Consumer Practices Directive. This directive prohibits misleading practices, including promoting or omitting relevant information that could impact consumer decision-making.

The case, part of a growing field of legal challenges to corporate climate efforts, was brought by Greenpeace France, Friends of the Earth France and Notre Affaire à Tous and supported by environmental lawyers ClientEarth.

Clara Gonzales from Greenpeace France said that consumers must be protected from misleading PR strategies, which can leave them trying telling fact from fiction. This could delay urgent climate action, as Clara Gonzales stated.

TotalEnergies previously stated that it expected its oil production will peak within the next decade. This was due to an average increase of about 3% per annum by 2026, driven by the rise of liquefied gas (LNG), which is predicted at 6%/an.

Between 2022-25, it plans to invest $13-15Billion annually. Half of that will be used to develop new energy sources, including renewables, electricity and natural gas.

Climate pledges are becoming more popular among companies. Climate activists and investors have begun to examine the actions of climate activists and investors to find out if their efforts can be used to meet the goal of zero emissions for all by 2050.

In the case of TotalEnergies, a leading investor group engaging with companies over climate transition plans has also flagged concern over its efforts, including lack of a target to reduce emissions from the use of its products by consumers.

Thomas Hale is a Global Public Policy Researcher at Oxford who co-leads the Net Zero Tracker Project.

Companies that take on such targets will be subject to additional scrutiny in order to verify they are actually following through.