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Cops, Climate Activists Clash in Paris

FILE: Environmental activists hold signs reading "Stop fossil energy project", "Uganda, rights and climate trampled" and "Total withdrawal from Russia" during a protest disrupting shareholder meeting of TotalEnergies, in Paris on May 25, 2022.

PARIS - Police in Paris on Friday used teargas against activists who attempted to block the annual shareholders meeting of French oil giant TotalEnergies - the latest standoff involving climate campaigners.

Protesters tried to prevent investors from attending the group's annual general assembly in Paris, but on Friday, shareholders arriving for TotalEnergies' annual general meeting in Paris were escorted past hundreds of protesters by riot police.

Earlier Friday, police used tear gas to disperse those who had managed to sit in front of the concert hall where it was being held.

TotalEnergies shareholders voted to back the French oil giant's climate strategy, which chief executive Patrick Pouyanne said demonstrates that "the climate is at the heart of our concerns."

He said his group has done more than others to invest in renewables.

But world oil demand is growing and "if TotalEnergies doesn't respond to this demand, others will do it for us," he said.

The demonstration was one of the latest in a series of tumultuous shareholder meetings at major corporations in Europe as activists step up pressure on companies to reduce their carbon footprints.

It's become so routine it's almost expected- when the shareholders of oil majors such as TotalEnergies or Britain's Shell; big banks such as BNP Paribas and HSBC; or car giants like Volkswagen meet, climate activists are usually on hand to harangue them and their board over their responsibility in the climate emergency.

Some activists say shock tactics are necessary to focus attention on the urgency of weaning the world off fossil fuels.

Thousands of French activists armed with bowling balls and other objects fought pitched battles with the police in March.

They were attempting to block construction of a reservoir for use in irrigation in the southwestern village of Sainte Soline, saying the mega-dam would distort access to water in times of drought.

The clashes left two demonstrators in a coma.

Along with corporate-focused protests, ded-carpet events have also repeatedly been targeted by activists, who accuse the rich and powerful of dining out at the planet's expense.

In December, campaigners from Last Generation smeared the facade of the famed La Scala theatre in Milan on the opening night of the new season.

Extinction Rebellion meanwhile attempted to stop private jets taking off during this year's Cannes film festival.