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The Farmer Case: first hearing before the Commercial Court of Tournai

The first hearing in the climate legal action brought by Hugues Falys, a farmer from Hainaut, and three NGOs (Ligue des droits humains, Greenpeace and FIAN) against TotalEnergies took place on 16 April in the Commercial Court of Tournai. During the hearing, the five parties agreed on a schedule for the exchange of pleadings, which will take place on 19 and 26 November 2025.

The first hearing on 16 April 2024 set out the next procedural steps in this new climate case. The parties’ exchanges of pleadings will end on 15 October 2025, with oral arguments taking place on 19 and 26 November 2025.

We were expecting the proceedings to be lengthy; in principle, they should last around two years. That is a long time. The climate emergency and its effects do not wait. But with this timetable, this action is finally becoming very concrete and I’m impatient to be able to start the debate on the impacts of climate change on my farm and on TotalEnergies’ responsibility,” says Hugues Falys, supported by three organisations (FIAN, Greenpeace and LDH).

“We are ready to get to the heart of the action and debate. We are confident that this procedure will restore Mr. Falys’ rights and help to advance the jurisprudence of climate litigation,” explain the lawyers from Progress Lawyers Network, who represent the interests of Mr. Falys and the three civil society groups.

For their part, the organisations are encouraged by the 9 April decision of the European Court of Human Rights, which condemned Switzerland for its climate inaction. This decision is legally binding on all national public authorities, including judges, and should set a precedent in the member states of the Council of Europe. FIAN, Greenpeace and the Ligue des droits humains also look forward to the Court of Appeal in The Hague confirming the first-instance decision in the MilieuDefensie v. Shell case, as pleadings before the Court just closed on 12 April. “Current events show that climate litigation is on the rise, and that justice can be an effective means of combating the inaction of governments and companies in the face of the climate emergency,” say the associations.

Holding TotalEnergies to account

On 13 March, Hugues Falys filed a lawsuit against TotalEnergies for its responsibility in climate change. In recent years, his farm has been hit by several extreme weather events, resulting in significant damage, loss of yields and concerns for the future. FIAN, Greenpeace and the Ligue des droits humains formally filed their petition for intervention on 29 March 2024. Together with Hugues Falys, their aim is to hold one of the world’s largest multinational fossil fuel companies to account.

TotalEnergies is the leading refiner and distributor in Belgium, and one of 21 companies active in fossil fuels, responsible for over a third of greenhouse gas emissions. With The Farmer Case, Hugues Falys, FIAN, Greenpeace and the Ligue des droits humains hope to force TotalEnergies to adopt a credible transition plan. Hugues Falys and the NGOs are asking the court to ensure that this plan includes a halt to investment in new fossil fuel projects and a 75% reduction in oil and gas production by 2040. The Farmer Case is supported by the Climate Coalition and the International Federation for Human Rights.

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