French energy giant TotalEnergies defended its strategy Friday after police teargassed climate activists outside its annual assembly and the French government urged the firm to speed up the switch to renewable energy.
The demonstration caps a series of tumultuous shareholder meetings at major corporations in Europe as activists step up pressure on companies to reduce their carbon footprints.
“The climate is at the heart of our concerns,” TotalEnergies chief executive Patrick Pouyanne told a few hundred attendees in a concert hall in the French capital.
He said his group has done more than others to invest in renewables. But as world oil demand is growing and “if TotalEnergies doesn’t respond to this demand, others will do it for us”.
French police earlier in the morning used tear gas to disperse protesters who had managed to sit on the ground in front of the venue, the Salle Pleyel, but ignored three warnings to move. Pouyanne said he regretted having to “take exceptional measures both in calling in the police and in strictly controlling access to this assembly”.
A couple of hundred protesters, however, remained on either side of the street blocked off by police outside the venue, as shareholders entered the hall. The police said four people had been detained.
“All we want is to knock down Total,” protesters chanted.
In reference to rising global temperatures, they also bellowed: “One, two and three degrees, we have Total to thank”. Some poured a black liquid over their heads.
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