Press release: 17 May 2023

TotalEnergies fails to stop historic net zero greenwashing case from proceeding

PARIS – A landmark greenwashing legal action against French oil and gas giant TotalEnergies has cleared a major hurdle today as a judge allowed the case to proceed.

Greenpeace France, Friends of the Earth France and Notre Affaire a Tous, supported by ClientEarth, filed a lawsuit in March 2022 against Total, arguing that the company’s ‘reinvention’ ad campaign violates European consumer law as it misleads the public on what the company’s plans mean for the climate crisis. [1]

The case also challenges the common promotion of expensive fossil gas as the energy source for the net zero transition – a critical issue for home energy consumers seeking a genuinely green energy provider while facing sky-rocketing bills driven by fossil gas prices.

TotalEnergies has claimed to be “a major player in the energy transition” and has pledged to reach company-wide net zero emissions by 2050. To date, the company has denied that it is greenwashing.

However, its business plans include a far-reaching expansion of fossil fuel production and the company appears to be avoiding any significant emissions reductions all the way through to the end of the decade.

In response to today’s judgment, ClientEarth lawyer Johnny White said:

“Today’s judgment heralds a major step forward in protecting consumers from misleading marketing claims like the ones broadcast by TotalEnergies’ across billboards and in targeted social media adverts.

“Oil companies have all been singing from the same hymn sheet of ‘sustainability’ – while continuing to explore and expand their use of fossil fuels – even with impending EU law closing in on greenwashing.

“Consumers have a well-established legal right to the truth about the products they’re offered under European law. Environmental crises and consumer protection alike demand that this right is enforced. We believe there is a strong case now before the Paris judicial court and we look forward to supporting our partners as this claim moves forward.

“Between this lawsuit, the ongoing criminal investigation into TotalEnergies’ sustainability publicity and the recommendation for investors to back a resolution urging the company to do more on emission reduction, the oil giant is facing unprecedented scrutiny into the reality of its climate commitments.”

The Court decision also stated that ClientEarth will not be a formal intervener listed in the case, however as part of its drive against the most dangerous forms of greenwashing ClientEarth will continue to support the French organisations as the case proceeds.

The case is now set to proceed in the Paris judicial court.


Notes to editors:

[1] According to the lawsuit launched in March 2022, TotatlEnergies ‘ambition’ to reach carbon neutrality is liable to be taken at face value by consumers, and therefore violates bans on misleading practices under the European Unfair Consumer Practices Directive, as implemented in France.

About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.