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Human rights defenders & business in 2022: People challenging corporate power to protect our planet.



“All over the world the positive achievements of human rights defenders too often go unrecognised. Defenders are targeted because they confront powerful vested interests by protecting our natural resources and shared climate, defending labour rights, exposing corruption, and refusing to accept injustice. As we mark the 25th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, States can and should do more to protect defenders, including by passing mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation that requires businesses to engage in ongoing, meaningful engagement with defenders and other stakeholders.

– Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur
on the situation of Human Rights Defenders

Every day, people across the globe are taking action to protect their communities, environments, and livelihoods from irresponsible business practice and demanding that companies uphold their responsibility to respect human rights, sometimes at great personal cost. Our data tracking attacks against these human rights defenders reveals the majority are against people raising concerns about harm to our shared environment.

This includes community members using direct action to stop logging in conservation areas in Malaysia, Indigenous leaders in Mexico protecting rivers and local biodiversity from harms caused by hydroelectric projects, and journalists reporting on environmental pollution in Serbia.

Despite the significant challenges they face, defenders are achieving victories worldwide. In 2022 defenders in Sierra Leone successfully advocated for a new law protecting customary land rights and banning industrial development in protected and ecologically sensitive areas; environmental justice groups in Louisiana’s “cancer alley” in the United States halted two large petrochemical projects; garment workers in Pakistan’s Sindh province won a 40% increase in minimum wage; women human rights defenders were elected to senior political positions in Brazil and Colombia, and after years of advocacy by Indigenous women leaders and organisations, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women adopted General Recommendation 39 on Indigenous Women and Girls – the first language in a binding international treaty focused on the rights of Indigenous women and girls.

As we mark the 25th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, we celebrate the courage, creativity, and commitment of these people, organisations, and communities across the globe who are protecting our rights and shared planet.

Yet, human rights defenders continue to face intolerable levels of risk and harm. In their vital work to promote human rights and protect the environment, they confront powerful actors and interests. They raise concerns about companies and investors engaged in irresponsible practice, governments failing in their duty to protect human rights, and other non-state actors profiting from environmental destruction. They do this work in increasingly restrictive environments, where anti-protest, terrorism, defamation, and “foreign agent” laws are used to silence dissent. According to CIVICUS, 2022 was marked by a serious decline in civic space, with only 3% of the world’s population living in countries with open civic space, where the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and expression are respected.

The scale of lethal and non-lethal attacks against people defending our rights, natural resources, and environment from business-related harms shows the failure of governments to protect human rights and that voluntary action by companies and investors is insufficient to prevent, stop, and remedy harm. It reinforces the need for mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence legislation grounded in safe, ongoing and effective rights-holder engagement, respect for the process of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of Indigenous peoples, and strong safeguards for human rights defenders, as well as further government action to protect the people who are at the forefront of protecting our planet.

Between January 2015 – March 2023, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre tracked more than 4,700 attacks against human rights defenders raising concerns about harmful business practice. In 2022 alone, we tracked 555 attacks, revealing that on average more than 10 defenders were attacked every single week for raising legitimate concerns about irresponsible business activity. Three-quarters of attacks (75%) were against climate, land and environmental defenders. Over a fifth of attacks (23%) were against Indigenous defenders, who are protecting over 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity, although they comprise approximately 6% of the global population.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Our research is based on publicly available information and as many attacks, especially non-lethal attacks (including death threats, judicial harassment and physical violence), never make it to media sources and there is a significant gap in government monitoring of attacks, the problem is even more severe than these figures indicate.

Global picture

Attacks against human rights and environmental defenders occur in every region of the world. Since we began tracking in 2015, Latin America and Asia and the Pacific have consistently been the most dangerous regions for defenders.

In 2022, the highest number of attacks on defenders raising concerns about business-related harms occurred in Brazil (63 recorded incidents of attack, affecting one or more defender), India (54), Mexico (44), Cambodia (40), the Philippines (32), Honduras (31), Belarus (28), Peru (23), Colombia (20), and Uganda (17). Learn more about our research methodology.

Types of attacks

Defenders are subjected to a range of attacks, including both killings and non-lethal attacks, such as threats, smear campaigns, arbitrary arrest, strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), and physical and sexual violence. Most (86%) of the attacks we tracked in 2022 were non-lethal, which are often precursors to lethal violence and warning signs to States to increase protection efforts.

Non-lethal attacks are generally left uninvestigated and unpunished, which can have a chilling effect on the work of defenders and promote impunity that feeds further violence where defenders persist in their critical work. The Esperanza Protocol, launched in December 2021 by civil society organisations and experts in international law, provides guidelines based on international human rights law to support the investigation, prosecution and punishment of threats against defenders by governments and ultimately create an enabling environment for the defence of human rights worldwide. While the protocol largely focuses on the duty of States, it also notes business actors must ensure their activities, actions, and omissions do not lead to threats against defenders and address any harms to defender


Oscar Mollohuanca Cruz was a former mayor of the Espinar district in Peru and a human rights and environmental defender. In 2012, alongside other community members, he raised concerns about environmental contamination and harm to human health related to copper mining in the region. 

In 2016, along with two other defenders, he was criminally indicted on charges of endangering public safety, obstruction of public services and disturbing the peace related to his activism and the protests in 2012. The three defenders faced eight years in jail for the first two charges and seven for the third one, in addition to fines of 27,000 EUR (100.000 soles). They were acquitted on 17 July 2017, however on 10 May 2018, the First Criminal Appeals Chamber of the Ica High Court of Justice overturned the acquittal and ordered the trial to be initiated once again.

In November 2021, Oscar participated in the National Campaign of Environmental Defenders in Peru where he shared his concerns about the lack of protection of defenders in the country and the urgent need for protecting the right to defend human rights. On 7 March 2022, Oscar was found dead with injuries on his body.

Judicial harassment

Many governments are not only failing in their duty to protect human rights but also actively targeting defenders through their legal systems or facilitating use of these systems by private actors to target defenders. Judicial harassment, which includes arbitrary detention, unfair trials, and other forms of criminalisation, continues to be prevalent worldwide. It also includes strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), lawsuits initiated or brought by business actors against people and groups for exercising their rights to participate in, comment on, or criticise matters of public concern. Judicial harassment causes significant stress and harm to defenders and diverts time away from their human rights work while draining their resources. It can have a chilling effect, deterring others from speaking out against abuse. Jointly, these forms of judicial harassment comprised nearly half (47%) of the cases we tracked in 2022 and 51% of cases since 2015.

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Sunčica Kovačević and Sara Tuševljak are 25-year-old law students who formed a group comprised of local community members and activists organizing against the construction of small hydropower plants in the Kasindolska river in East Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. This initiative raised concerns about the environmental and human rights impacts of hydropower plants operated by BUK d.o.o, a subsidiary of Belgian-based company Green Invest. In January 2022, Green Invest brought three defamation lawsuits, which bear the hallmarks of SLAPPs, against Sunčica and Sara and they have been threatened with further legal action.

The Resource Centre sought a response from Green Invest, which stated the lawsuits were filed to stop the defamation against the company. A rejoinder from Riverwatch, EuroNatur, Foundation Atelier for Community Transformation – ACT, Save the Blue Heart of Europe, and Stop Building Small Hydropower Plants on Kasindolska River expressed support for the defenders.


ACT – Foundation for social change

Gendered nature of attacks

During 2022, nearly one-quarter of attacks were against women human rights defenders. While defenders of all genders are targeted due to their human rights work, women human rights defenders challenging both corporate power and patriarchal gender norms often endure specifically gendered attacks. This includes online threats and harassment of a sexualised nature and smear campaigns criticising women for spending time on activism rather than caretaking in the home. In research by the SAGE Fund about women defending their lands, territories, resources and the climate from extractive projects, many women interviewed said the psychological harm from online smear campaigns was one of the most significant and long-term forms of structural harm they face.

These tactics are meant to stigmatise, isolate and silence women defenders. Due to patriarchal power dynamics, women human rights defenders often also face risks in different spheres, including in their societies, communities and families. They may experience discrimination or violence in the movements and organisations they work with, criticism from their families or communities for their human rights work, and intimate partner violence at home. While defenders of any gender face barriers to justice and remedy, these difficulties are compounded for women human rights defenders due to gender-based discrimination and violence, and even more challenging for women facing multiple forms of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, ability and other identities.

Sector overview

Attacks against defenders occur in relation to almost every business sector in every region of the world. The four most dangerous sectors in 2022 related to natural resources. Short term profit-driven extractive approaches which have underpinned the global energy model are core drivers of attacks on defenders and have not provided many of the economic benefits or development promised to communities and countries.

Mining has consistently been the most dangerous sector for defenders since we began tracking in 2015, showing little progress to prevent attacks. Nearly 30% of attacks in 2022 were connected to mining, and the sector is even more dangerous for Indigenous defenders – 41% of attacks against Indigenous peoples in 2022 related to mining.

This is particularly concerning given that International Energy Association projections point to a six-fold increase in demand for transition minerals (e.g., copper, cobalt, lithium, nickel, manganese, zinc, as covered in our Transition Minerals Tracker, as well as rare earths) by 2040. In addition, a 2022 study found that half of the world’s resource base for crucial energy transition materials is located on or near Indigenous Peoples’ lands. Lithium mining is of particular concern: according to the study, 85% of current and planned lithium extraction projects are located on or near land managed or inhabited by Indigenous peoples.

Mining for transition minerals, as well as land-intensive renewable energy projects, are already causing widespread abuse of land, water and Indigenous peoples’ rights. Our Transition Minerals Tracker revealed the world’s biggest producers of six key minerals needed for the zero-carbon transition are largely failing to address risks and impacts on local communities, including attacks on civil society organisations and their leaders. This approach to the transition will also continue to fuel opposition, conflict, and result in delays to both projects and achieving our global climate targets. Such conflict has already resulted in at least 369 attacks on defenders related to renewable energy projects since 2015, including 98 killings. In addition, we have tracked at least 148 attacks related to transition mineral mining between 2010 and 2021, making up over a quarter of the 517 attacks recorded with links to renewable energy value chains – from mineral extraction through to installations.

Despite these risks, human rights and environmental defenders are at the forefront of advocating for a rights-respecting, more sustainable energy transition which does not replicate harmful extractive models of past and present. They are also innovating and reimagining the energy sector based on equity. We are seeing a small, but growing, adoption of equity model frameworks where renewable energy companies design projects with Indigenous communities based on the principles of co-ownership and sustainable shared benefit, which is essential for a rights-based and sustainable transition.

Perpetrators of attacks

As many attacks involve collusion between State, private sector and other non-state actors in contexts with high levels of impunity, perpetrators are often difficult to identify. In cases where attacks could be connected with a specific company or a business project (43% of total attacks in 2022), the highest number of attacks related to companies headquartered in India and the United Arab Emirates. Both countries have tried to position themselves as global and environmental leaders and are hosting major multilateral events in 2023 – G20 and COP28, respectively. In addition, Brazil, set to host the G20 presidency in 2024, is the most dangerous country overall for defenders raising concerns about business. This worryingly signals that the countries charged with steering collective action on climate and global economic and financial stability are failing in their duty to protect human rights and to hold companies headquartered in their countries to account when they violate the rights of defenders.

The five companies whose operations, value chains, or business relationships were connected to the highest numbers of attacks in 2022 were JSW Steel Ltd. (India), Otterlo Business Corporation (UAE), TotalEnergies (France, East African Crude Oil Pipeline majority shareholder), Inversiones los Pinares (Honduras), and NagaCorp Ltd and its subsidiary NagaWorld (Cambodia) (more information about the allegations can be downloaded here). These include any attacks against defenders raising human rights concerns about these companies’ operations, value chains, or business relationships, even if the company did not perpetrate the attack directly.

We invited these companies to respond. JSW Steel Ltd. and TotalEnergies responded; their full responses are available here. Otterlo Business Corporation, Inversiones los Pinares, and NagaCorp did not respond.

There are many ways companies can be involved with attacks on defenders, including:

  • Calling police or state security forces to disperse a peaceful protest at one of their operation sites;
  • Threatening, firing or calling for the arrest of union leaders;
  • Cooperating with state repression, such as by providing services or products that enable surveillance of journalists and other defenders; and
  • Initiating lawsuits against defenders for defamation, damages or incitement to commit a felony; and
  • Lobbying for policies that restrict civic freedoms, such as “anti-protest” laws and actions that lead to criminalisation of defenders.

Less obvious tactics to silence defenders and undermine their rights include providing incentives for some community members to create divisions, obstructing unionisation, disseminating distorted information about projects, lobbying against regulation intended to protect human rights and the environment, and exploiting governance gaps for corporate benefit, among others.

According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and subsequent guidance, if business actors are causing or contributing human rights abuse affecting defenders, their responsibility is clear-cut: end the abuse and address and remedy any harm. Even in cases where there are no apparent direct links between companies or investors and attacks, business actors with operations, supply chains, business relationships and/or investments are expected to proactively use their leverage to promote respect for the rights of defenders and civic freedoms. In addition, restrictions on civic freedoms signal riskier contexts for investment and economic activity and create an “information black box” for companies and investors, making it more difficult to engage in robust human rights due diligence.

Other non-state actors involved with attacks on defenders include illegal miners, loggers and organised criminal groups. Illegal mining and logging – extraction of these natural resources undertaken without appropriate land rights, exploration licenses or transportation and other permits – are often associated with significant human rights abuses, environmental harm and corruption. Lack of transparency in precious metal supply chains, weak regulation in both producing and consumer countries, the potential for significant profit, and high levels of impunity fuel exploitation in this sector.

People who raise concerns about illegal mining and logging are protecting their land, clean water, and biodiversity; combating pollution and deforestation; and helping to address the climate crisis. They often face threats and violence from those involved with this illegal exploitation of resources. While companies are not direct perpetrators of these attacks, these illegally extracted resources often end up in their supply chains, showing a need for stronger human rights due diligence among sourcing companies.

State actors

Among the cases we tracked where information was publicly available about alleged perpetrators of attacks, the police were named most frequently, followed by the judicial system. The data we uncovered shows how governments are failing in their duty to protect rights and, further, are actively using agents and arms of the State – police, armed forces and the judicial system – to try to silence and stop human rights and environmental protection work. According to the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, governments have a duty to investigate, punish and redress all forms of threats and attacks against human rights defenders in a business context, yet many have a vested interest in these attacks happening under the radar given their involvement. In addition, very few States are collecting official data on lethal and non-lethal attacks.

Advances in legislation and voluntary commitments

Over the past two years, there have been several significant developments related to business and human rights defenders in both soft and hard law, driven by years of civil society advocacy. In 2021, the seminal interpretation of UNGPs by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights clarified the normative responsibility of business actors to respect the rights of defenders and highlighted the critical role played by defenders in human rights due diligence processes and in enabling business enterprises to understand the concerns of affected stakeholders. In addition, the Escazú Agreement – the first legally binding instrument in the world to include provisions on environmental human rights defenders and the first environmental agreement adopted in Latin America and the Caribbean – entered into force.

Milestones in 2022 and 2023 include:

  • Adoption of General Recommendation 39 on Indigenous Women and Girls by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women – the first language in a binding international treaty focused on the rights of Indigenous Women and Girls. The recommendation also acknowledges that Indigenous women and girls are at the forefront of demand and action for a clean, safe, healthy and sustainable environment.
  • Inclusion of strengthened stakeholder consultation requirements and the language of human rights defenders in the European Union corporate sustainability due diligence legislation text approved by the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) on 25 April 2023, making it more likely that the final text of this historic corporate accountability legislation could include requirements related to defenders. At the same time, the language in the JURI committee’s position is in some ways weaker than the text proposed by lead MEP Lara Wolters in her earlier draft report. The EU Council’s General Approach adopted by Member States on 1 December 2022 also includes language on defenders and explicitly mentions them as stakeholders whose rights or interests could be affected by corporate activity.
  • Appointment of former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defender Michel Forst as the first-ever Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders under the Aarhus Convention, which protects the right to live in a healthy environment in the European Union. This is the first such mechanism specifically safeguarding environmental defenders to be established within a legally binding framework either under a UN system or other intergovernmental structure.
  • Consultations on the revision of the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, in which civil society groups have urged strengthening the text on reprisals and explicitly including “human rights defenders”.
  • Several corporate and government commitments to the protection of civic space and human rights defenders as part of the US Summit for Democracy.

These and other developments signal momentum towards recognition of the need to prevent and address attacks against defenders raising concerns about business-related harms, including among companies themselves. For example, Hewlett Packard Enterprises enacted a policy commitment to respect the rights of marginalised groups (including defenders) in January 2022, and TotalEnergies published information about the actions it has taken with respect to human rights defenders and freedom of expression in Uganda (see also TotalEnergies EP Uganda’s human rights policy). In addition, the Voluntary Principles Initiative, a multi-stakeholder initiative that guides oil, gas and mining companies on how to conduct their security operations in a manner that respects human rights, will release guidance on defenders in 2023.

The scale and severity of attacks on people across the globe protecting our rights and environment clearly show the need for urgent action. We call on States to fulfil their duty to protect the rights of defenders and for business actors to respect the rights of defenders by acting on these recommendations.


Recommendations for states

  • Pass and implement legislation recognising the right to defend rights and the vital role of defenders, both individual and collective, in promoting human rights, sustainable development, and a healthy environment and committing to zero-tolerance for attacks (more detail recommendations available here). This must include legal recognition of the specific rights of Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples (more detailed recommendations  available here).
  • Accede to or, if already ratified, fully implement key international and regional standards that protect the civic freedoms of defenders, including those raising concerns about harmful business practice.
  • Pass national laws to implement the UNGPs, including mandatory human rights due diligence legislation, and consult with defenders at all stages of this process. This legislation should mandate that business actors engage in ongoing safe and effective consultation with defenders and other rightsholders potentially or directly affected, should be an integral part of climate mitigation and adaptation plans, and should be aligned with the UN working group’s guidance on defenders and other key standards mentioned above (more detailed recommendations available here).
  • Collect and report data on non-lethal and lethal attacks to inform more effective protection mechanisms and passing anti-SLAPP legislation to prevent companies silencing defenders (more detailed recommendations available here).
  • Ensure effective remedy for violations when they occur, including by strengthening judicial systems to hold businesses accountable for acts of retaliation against defenders and actively participating in investigation and prosecution of those responsible for attacks.
  • Move towards supporting the adoption of a binding United Nations treaty on business and human rights and ensure that it explicitly recognises the risks defenders face and their right to defend human rights.

Recommendations for companies

  • Adopt and implement policy commitments which recognise the valuable role of defenders, reference specific risks to defenders, ensure effective engagement and consultation with defenders at all stages of the due diligence process and commit to zero-tolerance for reprisals throughout the company’s operations, supply chains and business relationships.
  • Create public commitments to respect fundamental rights with particular attention to rights often abused in connection with attacks on defenders, such as violations of land and Indigenous peoples’ rights.
  • Engage in and report on the results of human rights and environmental due diligence that integrates a gender perspective throughout and ensure effective access to remedy for those harmed by business activity, in accordance with the UNGPs, the UN Working Group’s guidance on ensuring respect for defenders, and the UN Working Group’s gender guidance.
  • Recognise that Indigenous defenders are disproportionately at risk, respect Indigenous peoples’ rights, grounded in their rights to self-determination; lands, territories, and resources; and right to free, prior, and informed consent, including their right to define the process by which FPIC is achieved and to withhold consent (more detailed recommendations available here).
  • Publicly recognise that defenders have a right to defend human rights, are essential allies in assisting businesses to adhere to their responsibilities under the UNGPs.

Recommendations for investors

  • Publish a public human rights policy which recognises the valuable role of defenders in identifying risks associated with business activities and commits to a zero-tolerance approach to attacks against defenders. Clearly communicate the human rights expectations included in this policy to portfolio companies, including that companies:
    ‣ disclose human rights and environment-related risks;
    ‣ engage in ongoing consultation with communities, workers and defenders;
    ‣ have policies and processes to respect Indigenous peoples’ rights (including land rights and free, prior and informed consent);
    ‣ respect the rights of defenders; and
    ‣ ensure effective access to remedy when harm occurs.
  • Undertake rigorous human rights and environmental due diligence that integrates a gender perspective throughout and review potential investees for any past involvement with retaliation. Avoid investing in companies with this track record.
  • Use leverage with investee companies which cause, contribute to, or are directly linked to human rights and environmental harms, including attacks on defenders, so that the company mitigates negative impacts and provides access to remedy to those affected.

Source: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

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Statement- Uganda: Seven Environmental activists brutally arrested, charged and released on police bail for protesting against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project



On 27 May 2024, seven environmental human rights defenders were brutally arrested by armed police in Kampala, Uganda and charged by the Jinja Road police for unlawful assembly. This was reported by the Stop the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (StopEACOP) campaign on 29 May 2024.

The seven human rights defenders were peacefully protesting against the intended financing of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP) by the Chinese government. According to the environmental human rights defenders, EACOP has caused severe human rights violations, poses significant environmental risks, and will contribute to the climate crisis. The EACOP is a project led by Total, spanning 1,443km from Kabaale, Hoima district in Uganda to the Chongoleani Peninsula near Tanga Port in Tanzania. It aims to transport oil from Uganda’s Lake Albert oilfields to global markets via the port of Tanga.

On 27 May 2024, seven environmental human rights defenders were brutally arrested by armed police in Kampala and charged by the Jinja Road police for unlawful assembly. The seven environmental activists were sitting outside the Chinese Embassy in Kampala in an attempt to present a letter of protest to the Chinese Ambassador expressing their complaints and demanding that his government refrain from funding an unfavourable project for them. Due to their arrest occuring before they had any chance of interacting with embassy representatives, their letter was not delivered. The peaceful protesters were violently rounded up by the police, who subsequently packed them in a vehicle and brought them to the Jinja Road police. The seven activists were released on police bail and were due to report back to the Jinja Road police station. On 18 May 2024, following several banks and insurance companies’ withdrawal from EACOP, Civil Society Organizations supporting energy just transition, climate and environmental conservatism, and land justice addressed the media and urged the Chinese President to rescind his interest in funding the project.

Local organizations have been denouncing that, in order to stifle complaints, silence protesters, and maintain pressure on those who defend climate, environment, and land rights, Ugandan authorities have turned to attacking and criminalising environmentalists, climate activists, and defenders of land rights. Uganda has recorded the most number of cases of violations against these human rights defenders, with 18 incidents documented in Africa, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center’s 2023 in their report titled People power under pressure: Human rights defenders & business in 2023. The majority of these attacks seem to center around the EACOP and the environmental human rights defenders campaigning against the project, which the State regards as a significant infrastructure initiative.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern for the safety and security of the seven environmental human rights defenders and strongly condemns the recent instances of intimidation, criminalization and police harassment they have been subjected to, as it believes are an act of reprisal for their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of environmental and land rights in Uganda.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Uganda to take the necessary measures to guarantee the security and protection of environmental human rights defenders during peaceful protests. The organisation also demands that the brutal arrest of these seven human rights defenders be condemned. Front Line Defenders calls Ugandan authorities to guarantee that all environmental and land human rights defenders, including human rights organisations working on environmental rights, are able to carry out their legitimate activities and operate freely without fear of police harassment.

Source: Frontline Defenders

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TotalEnergies African legacy: 100 years of environmental destruction.



TotalEnergies, the French petro giant company with a legacy of destruction on the continent, this year celebrates 100 years. To be clear, that is 100 years of profit, environmental destruction and damage to people’s lives.

The company’s damage is widespread, extensive and well-documented.

In 1956, TotalEnergies entered Africa, exploiting natural resources as it went along. In chasing down oil and gas, it has wreaked havoc on communities, land, and the environment.

A 2022 study by the Climate Accountability Institute found the total emissions attributed to the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline totals 379 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, making TotalEnergies a key contributor to Africa’s carbon footprint.

As Charity Migwi, a senior campaigner at Oil Change International, a research, communication, and advocacy organisation, notes, the company has its hands on various projects on the continent.

The project noted above will have about 460km of pipeline in the freshwater basin of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, which directly supports the livelihoods of more than 40 million people in the region. On top of this, there are plans to extract oil from the fields in Uganda as well as the company’s prominent role in the Mozambique LNG Project, which is a major cause of carbon emissions

Closer to home, TotalEnergies has been given the go-ahead to explore for oil and gas off the south-west coast of South Africa, which sparked protests. As the company held its annual general meeting in Paris, France, protests by affected communities, civil society and activists in both countries took place.

Environmental justice group The Green Connection’s community mobilisation officer, Warren Blouw, said in a press release: “TotalEnergies and other oil and gas companies must consider the livelihoods of small-scale fishers, whose economic wellbeing is jeopardised by offshore oil and gas exploration. We must unite to protect Africa and its resources from those who only seek profit, at the cost of regular South Africans.”

Zinhle Mthiyane, of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said: “We are protesting to protect the environment and prevent ocean pollution. Drilling for oil and gas in South African waters could degrade the environment, threatening livelihoods and cultural practices.”

One of those affected by TotalEnergies and its hunt for fossil fuels is Sifiso Ntsunguzi, a small-scale fisher from Port St Johns, on the Eastern Cape coast. Ntsunguzi made the trip to France to protest.

“We are in Paris to support the court case against TotalEnergies’ oil and gas projects. As a small-scale fisher and member of a coastal community, I do not support the exploration of oil and gas in the ocean. We use the ocean for cultural practices and as a means to sustain our livelihood. We are against exploration of gas and oil, as it may risk degradation of the environment and marine ecosystems, our livelihood and our health. I come from a fishing community and have become a fisher myself,” he said.

In another press release, environmental justice group Bloom wrote that TotalEnergies has been well aware of its climate harms as far back as the 1970s, yet the company still goes ahead with its oil and gas initiatives.

Initially, its strategy was to deny climate change, wrote Bloom. Now that it can no longer do so, it has changed tact and resorts to greenwashing, described by the United Nations as follows: “By misleading the public to believe that a company or other entity is doing more to protect the environment than it is, greenwashing promotes false solutions to the climate crisis that distract from and delay concrete and credible action.”

Total Energies portrays itself as a serious player in the renewable energy space and constantly punts its renewable efforts while going full steam ahead with its fossil fuel projects.

For example, it said of its project in the Northern Cape: “TotalEnergies and its partners are launching construction of a major hybrid renewables project in South Africa, comprising a 216 megawatt solar plant and a 500 MWh battery storage system to manage the intermittency of solar production.”

Bloom explained that chasing renewables is profitable but nowhere near as profitable as oil and gas, and it in no way negates the harmful search for and use of fossil fuels. For this reason Bloom and two other climate justice groups took TotalEnergies to court.

This case also hopes to halt the expansion of fossil fuel extraction. As The Guardian reports: “A criminal case has been filed against the CEO and directors of the French oil company TotalEnergies, alleging its fossil fuel exploitation has contributed to the deaths of victims of climate-fuelled extreme weather disasters. The case was filed in Paris by eight people harmed by extreme weather, and three NGOs.”

Joyce Kimutai, a climate scientist at the University Of Cape Town, said: “The fossil fuel industry will continue to undermine science, they will continue to expand their businesses,

they will continue to cause suffering to the people as long as they know that the law can’t hold them accountable.”

Whether the case will yield anything remains to be seen, but the important thing is people are standing up and fighting the harmful practices of these fossil fuel companies. International bodies like the UN climate change conferences yield very little results. It is up to us, the people on the ground, to unite for the good of our planet.


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Incredible WIN! European Union withdraws from Energy Charter Treaty



The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is an international agreement originally created with a focus on growing fossil fuel energy cooperation after the Cold War. Today, the Treaty is a major obstacle to effective climate action because it protects fossil fuel investments. By including investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), the Energy Charter Treaty allows fossil fuel corporations to sue States that act to protect our climate when that action could impact a company’s profits.

Today, we celebrate because the European Council overwhelmingly adopted the EU’s proposal to exit the controversial Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), an outdated international investment agreement that protects and promotes fossil fuel investments.

CIEL and other organizations across Europe have worked tirelessly to educate European decision-makers about the dangers of the Energy Charter Treaty. Together, we proved how the treaty prevents effective climate action and is fundamentally incompatible with EU law.

This pivotal vote follows up an EU Commission’s proposal for the EU and European Atomic Energy Community to exit the Energy Charter Treaty.

The Commission found the ECT incompatible with the EU’s laws, investment policy and law, and energy and climate goals. Its proposal broke months of deadlock by offering EU countries the option to remain in the treaty while allowing other countries to exit. The European Parliament also adopted a resolution in April 2024 calling on the EU to withdraw from the ECT.

Today’s vote proves that people power can win critical victories!

Join us in celebrating this victory for the people, the environment, and the climate!

Demonstrators wear masks with the EU leaders under a sword that reads Energy Charter Treaty.

Why does this matter?

Fossil fuel investors have used the Energy Charter Treaty to sue States when they take climate action, claiming a right to compensation for alleged loss of investments. If they are serious about climate action, States must disentangle themselves from investor protections that allow fossil fuel companies to sue them in private courts when States act in the public interest to phase out fossil fuels. States could be squeezed from both sides: sued by communities for their climate inaction with ever greater frequency, and sued by investors when they do act to phase out the fossil fuel drivers of the climate crisis and accelerate the energy transition.

CIEL has worked for a long time to dismantle ISDS and ensure that the perspectives of communities inform ongoing arbitration.

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads 'Exit the Energy Charter Treaty'

Policymakers in Europe, and beyond, now have a duty to end their dependency on fossil fuels, exit the ISDS system that allows industry to sue States for enacting public interest policies, and accelerate the clean energy transition.

This win in Europe is a milestone in the fight against investor state dispute settlements. Now, we are leveraging this momentum for other States and clearing the way for effective climate action around the world.

Today we celebrate this victory with you. Tomorrow we will continue working to uproot the fossil economy driving the climate crisis, and the trade and investment deals that stand in the way of a renewable energy future.


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