Environmental groups file complaint against France’s TotalEnergies over climate impact

PARIS (Reuters) – Four environmental organisations have started legal action against France’s largest energy company TotalEnergies over the impact of the group’s oil pipeline development in Uganda and other fossil fuel projects.

Darwin Climax Coalitions, Sea Shepherd France, Wild Legal and Stop EACOP-Stop Total en Ouganda said they have filed a complaint with the Nanterre prosecutor’s office over TotalEnergie’s “climaticide action”.

They say the company approved more fossil fuel projects than any other oil major between 2022 and 2025, including the $3.5 billion East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) that will help Uganda export its oil to international markets.

“Considering the climate emergency and its global stakes, it’s not possible anymore for companies driven by a vision of short-term profit to put at risk everyone’s future with impunity,” Lamya Essemlali, head of Sea Sheperd France, said in a statement.

“Acknowledging Total’s criminal liability … is a huge step toward climate justice,” Essemlali said.

The environmental groups make four different complaints against TotalEnergies: failing to fight a disaster, involuntary homicide, unintentional injury to persons and destruction or damage of property belonging to a person likely to create a danger to persons.

The complaint was filed with the prosecutor’s office on Sept. 22 and could lead to a judge opening a formal investigation.

A spokesperson for TotalEnergies said the company wasn’t aware of the complaint.

“The company operates in compliance with its operating standards and with laws and regulations. It will respond to requests from authorities if necessary,” the spokesperson said in an email.

Rights group Human Rights Watch said in July that the EACOP project, in which TotalEnergies has a 62% stake, has “devastated” the lives of thousands of people who have experienced delayed or inadequate compensation for their land, and is a disaster for the planet as it will add emissions that exacerbate climate change.

TotalEnergies rejected HRW’s accusations, saying it was respecting all the rights of affected people.

(Reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro and Dominique Vidalon, editing by Susan Fenton)