French electricity giant TotalEnergies has defended itself after police tear gassed climate activists outside its annual assembly in Paris on Friday. The government urged the firm to accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources.

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“The climate is at the center of our concerns,” TotalEnergies chief executive Patrick Pouyan told several hundred visitors at the Salle Pleyel concert hall in the capital.

He said his company had done more than others to invest in renewable energy, adding that it also needed to respond to rising global oil demand.

French police had earlier fired tear gas to disperse protesters sitting in front of the venue, but ignored three warnings to move.

Pouyan said he regretted having to “take extraordinary measures” both in calling the police and controlling access to the event.

Knockdown Total

Several hundred protesters, however, remained on the street, blocked off by police outside the concert hall, as the shareholders entered.

Four people were detained, the police informed.

“All we want is to bring down Total,” the protesters chanted.

“One, two and three degrees, we have Total to thank,” was another refrain, referring to rising global temperatures.

Marie Kohe, a spokeswoman for climate campaigners Alternatiba, said TotalEnergies epitomizes the “worst” of what has been done to exploit people and the planet.

One of the shareholders, who called himself Jean-Paul, defended himself by fighting his way inside.

“We are all concerned about climate issues, but there are also economic aspects, employment,” he said.

“go faster”

Climate activists are becoming impatient with oil and other companies because of their impact on the planet.

Energy giants enjoyed record profits last year as Russia’s war in Ukraine sent oil and gas prices soaring.

TotalEnergies’ net profit was a record 18 billion euros last year.

The group plans to direct a third of its investments to low-carbon energy sources and reach 100 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity by 2030.

But France’s Minister of Energy Transitions, Agnes Panier-Runacher, called on the company to speed things up.

“Total is investing in renewables, but the challenge is to go … faster,” she told Franceinforadio on Friday morning.

Shareholders vote

TotalEnergies has about 1.5 million individual shareholders who are invited to vote in person or online on two climate-related issues during the meeting.

Investors will first vote on the group’s proposed climate strategy and then on TotalEnergies’ proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The vote on the proposal – put forward by 17 investors who together own nearly 1.5 percent of the shares – is purely advisory.

TotalEnergies operations include liquefied natural gas and oil projects in the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Papua New Guinea and Uganda, where it has come under fire for the Eacop pipeline project.