Belgian Farmer Takes TotalEnergies To Court

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Seeking compensation for a damage, which was linked to climate change, to his farm, a Belgian farmer is taking top French oil and gas company, TotalEnergies to court. The farmer is also seeking a legal order for the company to halt investment in its new fossil fuel projects.

The case, filed at the Tournai Commercial Court, marks the first ever climate change-related lawsuit in Belgium, targeting a multinational company. It comes next to a case in which thousands of citizens successfully sued the Belgian government in demand for stronger greenhouse-gas emission cuts.

Hugues Falys, the Belgian farmer who farms cattle in Lessines, is seeking to get TotalEnergies to overhaul its business plan, which includes immediately halting investment in new fossil fuel projects, and reducing its oil and gas production each by 47% by 2030. He also seeks damages, which, if awarded, will be donated to a sustainable farming organisation.

Hugues argues that, as one of the world’s top 20 CO2-emitting companies, TotalEnergies is partly responsible for the damage extreme weather did to his farm operations from 2016-2022.

During that period, there were consecutive droughts, which reduced the yield of his meadows where he grows fodder for the animals: forcing him to spend money buying feed, and eventually reduce the size of his herd. “We are an activity completely dependent on the climate,” Falys said.

In a statement, TotalEnergies TTEF.PA said the company is yet to receive an official notification of the summons, and therefore would not comment on the case.

“TotalEnergies regrets the litigation process undertaken: the issue of climate change, and the energy transition is not the legal responsibility of a given actor but rather the collective effort of the whole of society,” the statement said, adding that TotalEnergies transition plan was centred around emissions-free electricity sources and gas.

With 2,180 climate-related court cases filed as of the end of 2022, amid the worsening impact of global warming from dangerous heat waves to shrinking water resources, the case is part of a swelling tide of climate litigation.

Nikki Reisch, a director at the Centre for International Environmental Law said: “This case reinforces the message that major polluters have duties, and face liability wherever they do business, direct their products, and cause harm.”

The Belgian farmer case is similar to a major climate case in Peruvia, where Peruvian farmer Saul Luciano Lliuya argues that German utility RWE’s emissions have contributed to the melting of Andean glaciers. That case is currently proceeding through the courts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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