TotalEnergies Faces Legal Challenge Over East African Oil Project

TotalEnergies Faces Legal Challenge Over East African Oil Project
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Four environmental organizations have initiated legal proceedings against the French company TotalEnergies, alleging that their oil project in Tanzania and Uganda harms the climate. These groups, including Darwin Climax Coalitions, Sea Shepherd France, Wild Legal, and Stop EACOP-Stop Total, filed their lawsuit on September 22. They argue that TotalEnergies should no longer be allowed to contribute to climate change without consequences.

Lawyers William Bourdon and Vincent Brengarth, representing the environmental groups, stated that it’s time to hold TotalEnergies accountable for its actions. They noted that this legal action is exceptional as it seeks a criminal judgment for activities that resemble “climaticide,” a term previously addressed only in civil courts.

The allegations against TotalEnergies include charges of causing destruction, damage, or deterioration of property that endangers people and failing to manage a potential disaster. Human Rights Watch previously called for a halt to the project when TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation signed a $10 billion deal to develop oilfields in Uganda and transport crude via a 1,445-kilometer pipeline to Tanzania’s Tanga port on the Indian Ocean.

Criticism of the project has also emerged in the European Parliament, with rights activists and environmental groups expressing concerns. TotalEnergies contends that around 100,000 displaced people have been fairly compensated, and measures have been implemented to protect the environment.

The project involves drilling approximately 400 oil wells within Murchison Falls Nature Park, Uganda’s largest national park and a biodiversity reserve. TotalEnergies stated that it is unaware of the recent legal action and its objectives, emphasizing its commitment to adhering to operating standards and legal regulations.

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Earlier this year, a French civil court dismissed a significant case against TotalEnergies on procedural grounds after several NGOs sought to suspend the project. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has pledged to continue the project, citing potential economic benefits for the landlocked nation.

The environmental associations involved in the latest allegations argue that the pipeline would have a detrimental impact on local populations and the environment. French NGO Les Amis de la Terre initiated legal action against the project in 2019, asserting that it violated the 2015 Paris accord on reducing global carbon emissions.

The lawyers in the current case cautioned that approving such projects could lead to chaos due to rising temperatures and called upon French authorities to compel TotalEnergies to significantly reduce fossil fuel investments and prioritize renewable energy development.

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