An environmental disaster could be looming in Uganda and Tanzania due to the mega oil project Tilenga/EACOP by TotalEnergies. To prevent this, six French and Ugandan NGOs filed a lawsuit against the French major for not complying with its duty of vigilance. The Paris court rejected their requests on February 28.
The court ruled that TotalEnergies’ vigilance plan included “the headings corresponding to the five measures required by law” and was “detailed enough not to be viewed as sketchy”. The company also published new vigilance plans for 2019, 2020 and 2021, which the court deemed as “many changes to the first”.
The court highlighted the difficulty of the 2017 law, which requires companies to protect human rights and the environment. The judges however, refused to send the case to the trial judge, leaving the NGOs disappointed.
Juliette Renaud, from Friends of the Earth, expressed her disappointment, saying that the judges did not rule on the core of the case and thus, the violations in progress in Uganda will not be put to an end. Élodie Valette, a lawyer specializing in climate issues and the duty of vigilance, explained that the court ruled inadmissible the requests of the NGOs as the prior notice issued in 2019 targeted the vigilance plan of the time, while the requests from the NGOs evolved to target the vigilance plan of 2021.
The Paris court’s decision is a setback for the NGOs, who were hoping to prevent an environmental disaster from happening in Uganda and Tanzania. With no comments from TotalEnergies, it remains to be seen if the company will take any action to comply with its duty of vigilance.