100 companies to blame for 71% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions

New research from the Climate Disclosure Project (CDP) has revealed 71% of the world’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) can be traced to just 100 fossil fuel producers.

The CDP, working in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute, identified companies including ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Saudi Aramco and Gazprom as belonging to a group of companies that are the source of 635 billion tonnes of GHGs emitted since 1988, the year human-induced climate change was officially recognised.

“This ground-breaking report pinpoints how a relatively small set of just 100 fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions,” said Pedro Faria, Technical Director at CDP.

“We are seeing critical shifts in policy, innovation and financial capital that put the tipping point for a low carbon transition in reach, and this historic data shows how important the role of the carbon majors, and the investors who own them, will be.”

If the trend in fossil fuel extraction continues over the next 28 years as it has over the last 28, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4ºC by the end of the century, which would likely result in substantial species extinction and large food scarcity risks worldwide.

“From carbon capture to clean energy, to methane mitigation to operational efficiencies, fossil fuel majors will have to demonstrate leadership by contributing to the low carbon transition at the scale and pace required,” said Richard Heede of The Climate Accountability Institute.

“Fossil fuel extraction companies will need to plan their future in the context of a radical transformation of the global energy system. They owe it to the millions of clients they serve who are already feeling the effects of climate change, to consumers and investors, and to the many millions more that require energy for the comfort of their daily lives but are looking for alternatives to their products.”

Of the 100 companies highlighted, 59% are state owned, with companies from Russia, China and Iran coming in for particular criticism, which highlights just how important the Paris Agreement could be for curbing greenhouse emissions.

Outside of the state-owned companies, almost a third of the others, 32%, are publicly listed investor-owned companies.

Faria said investors in these companies need to take a much more active role in reducing emissions.

“In particular, the report shows that investors in fossil fuel companies own a great legacy of almost a third of all industrial GHG emissions, and carry influence over one fifth of the world’s industrial GHG emissions today,” said Faria.

“That puts a significant responsibility on those investors to engage with carbon majors and urge them to disclose climate risk, and set ambitious emission reduction targets through the Science Based Targets initiative to ensure they are aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

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