Environmental Groups Sue TotalEnergies Over Climate Marketing Allegations

  • Claiming that the advertising campaign around the rebranding was misleading
  • Declares that the company is not on track to meet the climate target
  • Company says ‘greenwashing’ label is fake

LONDON/PARIS, March 3 (Reuters) – A group of environmental organizations have filed a lawsuit in France against the country’s largest energy company, TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA), accusing it of misleading consumers into mistake about its efforts to fight climate change.

The claim, which was served on TotalEnergies and was due to be filed in the Paris High Court, relates to the company’s “reinventing” marketing campaign. The plaintiffs say the campaign broke EU consumer law by suggesting that TotalEnergies can achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 while producing more fossil fuels.

Environmentalists have long complained about corporate “greenwashing,” which they define as marketing or public relations campaigns that attempt to hide pollution or make a company’s operations appear more environmentally friendly than they are not.

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TotalEnergies told Reuters it was implementing its strategy in a “concrete” manner, including through investments and reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, and that it was acting “in accordance with the objectives that the company s ‘is fixed… It is therefore wrong to claim that our strategy is ‘greenwashing’.”

Launched globally in May 2021, the ads stated that TotalEnergies was committed to being “a major player in the energy transition” and aimed for carbon neutrality by 2050.

Activists allege that the company’s plan to continue to increase production of fossil fuels such as oil and gas – major contributors to man-made global warming – was at odds with this.

A report by the International Energy Agency said last year that no new oil and gas fields should be developed from this year if the world is to have a chance of capping global warming at 1 .5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average by 2050.

The plaintiffs allege that TotalEnergies breached the EU’s Unfair Consumer Practices Directive (UCPD), which prohibits misleading practices that may include promoting false information or omitting relevant information that impacts 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 lawyers from the ClientEarth environment.

“We must protect consumers from disinformation PR strategies that leave them trying to tell fact from fiction and delay the urgent climate action we need,” said Clara Gonzales, legal adviser at Greenpeace France, in a statement.

TotalEnergies has previously said it expects its oil production to peak in the decade before declining, with an increase of around 3% per year by 2026 driven by growth in liquefied natural gas (LNG), expected at 6% per year.

It plans to spend $13 billion to $15 billion a year between 2022 and 2025 and will devote half to the development of new energies, mainly renewable energy and electricity, and the remaining 50% to natural gas.

More companies have made climate pledges to appeal to consumers, and investors and climate activists are increasingly probing their actions to see if they can help achieve the global climate goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

In the case of TotalEnergies, a leading investor group that engages with companies on climate transition plans has also raised concerns about its efforts, including the lack of an emissions reduction target. resulting from the use of its products by consumers.

“We’ve seen a huge rush to adopt this language…even oil and gas companies that have a real challenge getting to net zero,” said Thomas Hale, a global public policy fellow at the University of Washington. ‘Oxford and co-leader of the Net Zero Tracker project.

“Companies that tackle these goals are given extra scrutiny to see that they’re doing really well.”

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Reporting by Simon Jessop in London; Editing by David Gregorio

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