French oil giant hit with novel criminal complaint over climate

Source: By Lesley Clark, E&E News • Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Environmental groups say TotalEnergies should be held responsible for its contributions to climate change.

The logo of French oil and gas company TotalEnergies is seen on an oil and gas station in Berlin on April 29, 2022.

The logo of French oil and gas company TotalEnergies is seen on an oil and gas station in Berlin on April 29, 2022. Astrid Vellguth/AFP via Getty Images

In what has been billed as the first legal complaint of its kind, a French oil company and its largest investors could face criminal charges for their role in warming the planet.

Three environmental groups and eight individuals Tuesday filed a criminal case at the Paris Criminal Court, accusing TotalEnergies’ board of directors and two shareholders with contributing to climate change and endangering lives.

The action comes three days before the Paris-based company’s annual general meeting and follows efforts by attorneys in the United States to hold fossil fuel producers criminally accountable for spewing greenhouse gases.

The challengers — France’s BLOOM and Santé Planétaire and Mexico’s Nuestro Futuro — are raising claims of involuntary manslaughter, neglecting to address a disaster and damaging biodiversity against directors at TotalEnergies, as well as the U.S. investment firm BlackRock and Norway’s central bank, Norges Bank.