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Hugues, the farmer

Hugues is an agricultural engineer and pioneer of the agro-ecological transition. His farm is located in Bois-de-Lessines in the Hainaut province.

Hugues, the farmer

Hugues is an agricultural engineer and pioneer of the agro-ecological transition. His farm is located in Bois-de-Lessines in the Hainaut province. Since 1993, he has been growing cereals, protein crops, vegetables, strawberries and legume-rich meadows, on which he raises around a hundred Charolais cows to produce organic meat.

Hugues works with an extensive self-sufficient grass rearing system, which means that he feeds his cows exclusively with grass from his meadows and legumes (alfalfa, clover, etc.) produced on his farm. He does not import feed from abroad, such as soy from Latin America. 

%TheFarmerCase - Un fermier attaque un géant de l'industrie fossile en justice pour sa responsabilité dans le dérèglement climatique. %
%TheFarmerCase - Un fermier attaque un géant de l'industrie fossile en justice pour sa responsabilité dans le dérèglement climatique. %

Although he practises resilient agriculture, Hugues has been suffering the concrete impacts of climate change on his farm for several years now. Unfortunately, the same applies to most farmers in Belgium. Extreme climatic events are becoming more and more frequent: heatwaves, droughts, extreme rainfall, etc.

The consequences? Unproductive or even ruined crops and meadows, significant financial losses, animals suffering from heat stress, as well as increased workload and major stress linked to the growing unpredictability of the climate and therefore of farmwork organisation.

For example, heatwaves and droughts have an impact on plant growth. As a result, on one hand, Hugues’ cash crop yields are falling. On the other hand, the meadows are scorched and no longer produce enough to feed the animals. One has to get supplies from elsewhere, and that costs money.

The impact of climate change on meadows is also forcing Hugues to reduce the size of his herd. Between 2000 and 2017, Hugues had an average herd size of 160 cattle heads. In recent years, he has been forced to reduce the size of his herd to around 100 animals by 2022.  

Hugues is also active in the peasant movement as an administrator and spokesperson for FUGEA, a farming union in Wallonia that is part of the international peasant movement La Via Campesina, which defends peasant farming and the agro-ecological transition. 

TotalEnergies, the  fossil fuel giant

TotalEnergies is one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, and its activities result in serious human rights abuses. It is also the leading refiner and distributor in Belgium. That is why we have decided to take this multinational to court. 

These greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are exacerbating global warming and causing the extreme weather events that have hit Hugues’ farm and many other farmers in Belgium. Elsewhere too, these climatic events are devastating: countries in the Global South are the most exposed to climate breakdown.

The French group is one of around 20 companies active in fossil fuels, which are responsible for over a third of emissions.

Time to pay the piper: Fossil fuel companies’ reparations for climate damages – Marco Grasso Richard Heede – 2023

Since 1971, TotalEnergies has known about the climate change impact of its activities

However, according to a study carried out by historians in TotalEnergies’ archives, the company deliberately fuelled doubt about the scientific basis for climate change. This strategic fabrication of doubt, as the researchers describe it, was aimed at countering the first emerging climate policies at both European and international level. .

From the 2000s onwards, TotalEnergies officially acknowledged the existence of climate change and claimed to be committed to the ecological transition.”TotalEnergies  presents itself as a socially responsible company, while continuing to invest in fossil fuels,” the report concludes.

TotalEnergies goes against the recommendations of international bodies

Many international bodies, including the IPCC and the International Energy Agency, recommend that investment in new fossil fuel projects (gas, oil, coal) be halted immediately in order to comply with the crucial limit of 1.5°C for a global temperature increase. But TotalEnergies’ plans go against these recommendations. 

According to several reports, TotalEnergies has no plans to stop exploring for fossil fuels, to halt new extraction projects or to reduce oil and gas production by 2030. In fact, quite the opposite.

Oil Change International, Carbon Tracker, Reclaim Finance

TotalEnergies is behind 23 climate bombs

A climate bomb is a massive fossil fuel extraction project that is already underway or about to be launched, and which would have a huge impact on climate. According to Le Monde, with its 23 climate bombs, TotalEnergies is the world’s second-largest group linked to fossil fuel mega-fields, behind the mining company China Energy and ahead of Saudi Aramco. 

One of the French multinational’s bombshells is the EACOP project, named after the 1,443 km pipeline that will cross from Uganda to Tanzania.

Map of TotalEnergies’ climate bombs

carte interactive carbonbombs.org sur l'impact des projets de total totalenergies

Since the publication of this map on the website carbonbombs.org, 23 climate bombs have been attributed to TotalEnergies as of now.

If all these companies’ projects – and there are more than 400 of them in total – are exploited to their completion, their combined potential emissions would represent twice the global carbon budget that must not be exceeded if we hope to keep global warming to 1.5°C. 

Nearly 20 billion euros in profits in 2023

While its activities are destroying our environment and affecting our human rights, TotalEnergies is making colossal profits. In February 2024, the Group announced that it had made a net profit of 19.89 billion euros in 2023 – a record amount, up 4% from 2022. It is an understatement to say that TotalEnergies has the kind of financial clout that could be mobilised to bring about a real energy transition. In 2023, fossil fuels still accounted for more than 70% of the Group’s investments.

In 2030, oil and gas will still account for 80% of the energy mix produced by TotalEnergies, compared to 95% in 2021.

NGO Reclaim Finance report