A criminal case has been filed against the CEO and directors of the French oil company TotalEnergies, alleging its fossil fuel exploitation has contributed to the deaths of victims of climate-fuelled extreme weather disasters, The Guardian reported.

Filed in Paris by eight people affected by extreme weather and three non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the public prosecutor had three months to decide whether to open a judicial investigation or dismiss the case, the 21 May report said.

The case aims to establish the alleged criminal liability of TotalEnergies’ directors and its major shareholders for deliberately endangering the lives of others, involuntary manslaughter, neglecting to address a disaster and damaging biodiversity, The Guardian wrote.

One of the NGOs filing the case, Dr Simon Frémaux, at Alliance Santé Planétaire, was quoted as saying: “Climate change is the world’s greatest health emergency. TotalEnergies and the other oil and gas companies are perfectly aware of what they are doing.”

The individual plaintiffs – from Belgium, France, Greece, Pakistan, the Philippines and Zimbabwe – alleged they had been harmed by storms, floods or wildfires, which scientific studies had shown were made worse by global heating, The Guardian wrote.

Hundreds of these “attribution” studies had shown extreme weather events had been made more intense and more frequent by emissions from fossil fuel burning, the report said.

Total had declined to comment.

One of the biggest oil and gas companies in the world, Total and its products had resulted in more than 14bn tonnes of CO₂ being emitted since 1971, when researchers claimed the company was aware of the role of fossil fuels in causing harmful climate change, the report said.

In 2021, the International Energy Agency said that no new oil and gas fields could be developed if global heating was to be limited to the 1.50C limit above pre-industrial levels in the international Paris agreement.

The plaintiffs claimed Total had announced the development of numerous new oil and gas projects since 2021 and continued to explore for more. Total’s directors and shareholders made this choice to maximise profits, they claimed.

Total has announced its aim of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. As well as processing fossil fuel, the company also produces renewable diesel at its 500,000 tonnes/year from a range of feedstocks, including rapeseed and other vegetable oils, as well as waste feedstocks such as used cooking oil (UCO) and animal fats.

The company also produces sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) at its Grandpuits site in Normandy, France, and in June 2023 announced it would double SAF production there, increasing production capacity to 285,000 tonnes/year, almost double the capacity in 2020.

As part of its net zero strategy, Total said crude oil refining at the Grandpuits platform would be discontinued in the first quarter of 2021 and storage of petroleum products would end in late 2023.

Climate change litigation against companies and governments was increasing, with hundreds of case filed globally, The Guardian wrote.