Belgian Farmer Sues Energy Company Over Climate Damages

Hugues Falys wants energy giant TotalEnergies to take part of the blame for the dry and warm weather that has impacted his livestock and farming business.
Hugues Falys
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Apr. 1, 2024 16:43 UTC

Farmer Hugues Falys has taken legal action against French oil and gas com­pany TotalEnergies, claim­ing he has suf­fered pro­fes­sional dam­age due to the com­pa­ny’s cli­mate dis­rup­tion.

Falys, a live­stock breeder and cere­als and veg­etable grower from Hainaut, a province of Wallonia and Belgium, has argued that TotalEnergies, one of the world’s top car­bon diox­ide emit­ting cor­po­ra­tions, must be held liable for part of the dam­age caused to his busi­ness by the adverse weather between 2016 and 2022.

According to his claim, dur­ing this period, suc­ces­sive droughts impacted the fod­der crops grow­ing in his fields, requir­ing him to buy hay for his ani­mals and even­tu­ally own­ing fewer cat­tle.

See Also:Spanish Campaigners Lobby for Glyphosate Ban After EU Fails to Reach Consensus

Climate change is hav­ing a tan­gi­ble impact on my work and life: yield losses, extra work and the stress that comes from deal­ing with a dis­rupted crop cal­en­dar,” Falys said in a press release. My pro­fes­sion is inti­mately linked to the cli­mate. In recent years, cli­mate change has caused farm­ers a great deal of dam­age and left us uncer­tain about the future.”

Scientific research has indi­cated that much of Europe has been in a drought since 2018, with the cen­tral European coun­tries also sig­nif­i­cantly affected.

Known in Belgium as The Farmer Case,’ Falys is seek­ing com­pen­sa­tion for the dam­age done to his busi­ness and a judi­cial order for the com­pany to halt new invest­ments in fos­sil fuel exploita­tion plans. Greenpeace and two other non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions back his law­suit.

Reuters reported that this is the first cli­mate change-related law­suit against a multi­na­tional firm in the chron­i­cles of Belgian law.

The farmer and his sup­port­ers have also asserted that TotalEnergies is aware of its oper­a­tions’ impact on the cli­mate since the 1970s but has delib­er­ately cho­sen to refrain from any mea­sures to avoid dam­ag­ing its busi­ness.

TotalEnergies is the largest oil dis­trib­u­tor in Belgium and the fifth most prof­itable in the world. It oper­ates an oil refin­ery and petro­chem­i­cal plant in Antwerp.

Greenpeace has included the French multi­na­tional in the global list of 21 energy cor­po­ra­tions that com­bined account for more than a third of global green­house gas emis­sions.

The Falys law­suit comes a few months after a court in Brussels ruled that the Belgian gov­ern­ment should take fur­ther mea­sures to reduce the country’s green­house gas emis­sions.

More specif­i­cally, the Brussels Court of Appeals has ordered the gov­ern­ment to cut emis­sions by at least 55 per­cent by 2030 com­pared to 1990. The court also found that the country’s cli­mate poli­cies have vio­lated human rights.

Scientists, how­ever, have argued that, for Belgium to effec­tively con­tribute to the global tar­get of keep­ing the rise of global tem­per­a­tures below 1.5 °C, the coun­try must cut its green­house emis­sions by at least 61 per­cent by 2030.

The World Meteorological Organization has also warned that the 1.5 °C warm­ing thresh­old in global tem­per­a­tures will likely be tem­porar­ily crossed by 2027.

The intro­duc­tory hear­ing in the Falys case is sched­uled to take place in court in mid-April this year.


Related Articles