Activists from the environmental organisation Greenpeace unveiled a large banner on Sunday in front of a TotalEnergies advertisement in Antwerp in protest against the company’s business in Russia.
TotalEnergies is a French multinational oil and gas company and is one of the seven largest energy companies in the world. The company has a major presence in Belgium, where it hires nearly 4,000 people and is the largest refiner and retailer of oil and gas products in the country.
At 14:00, activists scaled nearby scaffolding, unfurling a banner that read “Oil & Gas = War.” The activists also poured black and red liquid on the advertisement to demonstrate the link between Russian oil and Ukrainian blood.
According to the protest’s organisers, Greenpeace launched the action in protest of the French company’s oil and gas extraction activities in Russia, which it says finances Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“TotalEnergies continues to hold on to its important fossil assets in Russia and is today the only western fossil energy giant to do so,” said Joeri Thijs, spokesperson for Greenpeace Belgium. “The company enriches the Russian regime and risks co-financing war crimes.”
Still invested in Russia
Greenpeace has openly accused TotalEnergies of making “false claims” about its intentions to quit the Russian market.
On March 22, the company announced that it would “stop purchasing oil and other oil products from Russia by the end of this year.” Greenpeace says that this pledge is worthless, as Russian oil only accounts for 5% of global oil production, whereas Russian gas accounts for 30% of the world’s production.
Despite the company’s pledge to “ensure strict compliance with current and future European sanctions”, TotalEnergies remains a minority shareholder in several Russian gas companies, such as Novatek (19.4%), Yamal LNG (20%), Arctic LNG 2 (10%) and TerNefteGaz (49%.)
In the Russian oil sector, TotalEnergies also stated that it would retain its 20% stake in Russian oil project Kharyaga, which is partnered with state-owned Zarubezhneft.
“In this way,” the organisers say, “(TotalEnergies) continues to benefit from the profits of Russian oil.”
By defacing TotalEnergies advertisements, Greenpeace is attempting to “end fossil fuel industry propaganda.” Spokesperson Thijs stated that the world's dependence on fossil fuels is the “root of the climate crisis” and “finances and unleashes conflicts all over the world.”
Greenpeace highlights that TotalEnergies had its best financial year since 2007, making around €14 billion in 2021. The protest organisers accused TotalEnergies of using these funds to attempt to greenwash their image.
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TotalEnergy’s now-defaced billboard promoted its electric car charging stations and other environmentally conscious activities in Belgium, such as 12,000 electric car charging points. Greenpeace says that sustainable investments account for just 10% of the company’s total activities.
“Over the past few weeks, the streets of Belgium have been literally flooded with advertising from TotalEnergies,” explains Thijs, “This greenwashing, which is even more wretched given the war in Ukraine, must stop."
"We are calling for an absolute ban on advertising from the fossil fuel industry and products that run on fossil fuel energy,” the Greenpeace spokesperson affirmed.
In January, Greenpeace criticised the Belgian government for not prioritising the climate crisis. It said that the government energy targets were “not ambitious enough” and called for “concrete action” to tackle climate change.