Climate change protesters descend on France's SocGen, energy companies

* Protesters say oil and gas industry drives global warming

* Total CEO says addressing climate change is not easy

* Says focuses on efficiency, gas and low-carbon power (Adds Total CEO comment)

By Bate Felix

PARIS, April 19 (Reuters) - Climate activists blocked thousands of employees from entering the headquarters of French bank Societe Generale, state-run utility EDF and oil giant Total on Friday, environmental group Greenpeace said.

Greenpeace said it was protesting against company links to the oil and gas industry, which it calls a driving force in global warming. Activists also obstructed the entrance to the environment ministry near La Defense business district.

Protesters plastered giant posters of President Emmanuel Macron carrying the slogan "Macron, President of Polluters" and a banner reading "Scene of Climate Crime" on the glass facade of Societe Generale, Reuters TV images showed.

Police pepper-sprayed one group blocking the bank's main entrance in a sit-down protest.

Some demonstrators taped themselves together while others cuffed themselves with plastic ties to metal poles to make it harder for police to dislodge them.

Employees in business suits milled around outside their offices. "I just want to get inside and on with my work," one frustrated bank employee said.

Greenpeace and action group Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth) have previously criticised Societe Generale for its role in financing oil and gas projects, in particular the Rio Grande LNG gas project in the United States.

A Societe Generale spokesman declined to comment.

ACTION NOT EASY

A spokesman for EDF, which relies heavily on nuclear and hydropower plants to generate electricity, said 96 percent of its power was carbon dioxide-free. He said EDF was committed to curbing its total carbon footprint by 40 percent by 2030.

A Total spokeswoman said two senior company executives had held talks with representatives of Greenpeace and Les Amis de la Terre.

At an oil industry summit in Paris on Friday, Total Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne acknowledged the climate change protests.

"Many people are demonstrating in Paris and are asking for more action. We all know it is not so easy because the population's primary request is for access to more energy, affordable energy and it has to be clean," he said.

He added that Total was trying to address climate change by improving the efficiency of its operations, growing its natural gas business and developing an electricity business based on low-carbon gas and renewables.

He also said Total had increased its output to 2.95 million barrels of oil equivalent per day this year, passing its 2018 record, aided by increased production in Australia, Angola, Nigeria and Russia.

Friday's protest echoed a series by the Extinction Rebellion group of climate-change campaigners in London this week that have caused transport snarl-ups in the British capital.

Teenage demonstrators staged an emotional protest, weeping and singing, at political inaction on climate change near London's Heathrow Airport on Friday. (Reporting by Antony Paone, Bate Felix, Inti Landauro and Geert De Clercq Writing by Richard Lough Editing by Mark Heinrich and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

First Published: 2019-04-19 10:37:02
Updated 2019-04-19 17:12:33


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