Fourteen local authorities and five NGOs in France have taken national oil giant Total S.A. to court on Tuesday, requesting the firm be ordered to reduce its greenhouse gases emissions.
While the lawsuit marks the first litigation in France for climate change against a multinational energy company, it is also the first time the Duty of Vigilance law from 2017 was used to demand that firms in the country form 'vigilance plans” to prevent negative environmental impacts.
In their joint statement, French local authorities and NGOs claim that Total has so far failed to take the necessary steps to prevent the impact of its activities against climate change.
The law on the Duty of Vigilance, 'specifically obliges companies to prevent the risks of human rights and environmental violations caused by their activities,' said Sandra Cossart, the head of Sherpa, a French NGO founded in 2001 to protect and defend victims of economic crimes.
'Total is legally required to identify the risks resulting from its contribution to global warming and to take the necessary measures to reduce its emissions,' she added in the statement.
Eric Piolle, mayor of Grenoble in southeastern France, said his city is already experiencing the consequences of climate change while elaborating that the Grenoble residents will experience three months of heat waves a year, with snow expected to disappear in the winter by 2050.
'Glaciers are melting, mountains are crumbling. Because cities are on the front line, it is also through them that change must happen,' he stressed.
Florence Denier Pasquier, vice president of France Nature Environnement – a nature and environmental preservation association, called on Total to put an end to its climate damaging activities.
'There is a need to move from rhetoric to action: that is the message that must be sent to this company,' he said.
By Ovunc Kutlu