Total faces legal action in France over ‘climate inaction’

French oil group Total is already facing legal action over damaging environmental policies in Uganda. And now, the group is facing further action by a group of local authorities in France over ‘climate inaction’ and the impacts its policies have on the environment.

It’s estimated that Total is responsible for around 1% of global CO2 emissions. Fourteen cities in France are filing the complaint against them alongside Est Ensemble and four NGOs, including Greenpeace and French law association Sherpa for a lack of ‘corporate duty of vigilance’.

This is the first time a case of this nature has been raised. Therefore, it’s unclear at this stage whether it will stand. It’s not guaranteed that the offence the company is accused of will actually be recognised under the law.

The complaint is based on regulations set out in the Paris agreement which has been signed by France, and also on France’s corporate duty of vigilance laws. These laws say that all large companies must adopt measures to prevent environmental and human rights violations, and that these plans must be published.

The plaintiffs’ say that Total has failed to meet its obligations and that, even though it created 1% of the world’s emissions and more than all of France’s total emissions, it hasn’t taken steps to meet the terms of the Paris agreement and limit its environmental impact.

“Total is legally required to identify the risks that result from its contribution to global warming and to take the necessary measures to reduce its emissions,” said Sandra Cossart, director of Sherpa, an NGO.

Gérard Cosme, Est Ensemble’s added, “everyone must make this effort; otherwise, there is injustice!”.

“The law on the duty of vigilance concerns Total in terms of the risks the company poses to foreign populations,” said François de Cambiaire of the Paris law firm Seattle Avocats.

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