Just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions, study says


Tess Riley


A relatively small number of fossil fuel producers and their investors could hold the key to tackling climate change


Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world'€s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report.

The Carbon Majors Report (pdf) '€œpinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions,'€ says Pedro Faria, technical director at environmental non-profit CDP, which published the report in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute.

Traditionally, large scale greenhouse gas emissions data is collected at a national level but this report focuses on fossil fuel producers. Compiled from a database of publicly available emissions figures, it is intended as the first in a series of publications to highlight the role companies and their investors could play in tackling climate change.

The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 '€“ the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established '€“ can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report.

ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988. If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as they were between 1988 and 2017, says the report, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4C by the end of the century. This is likely to have catastrophic consequences including substantial species extinction and global food scarcity risks.

While companies have a huge role to play in driving climate change, says Faria, the barrier is the '€œabsolute tension'€ between short-term profitability and the urgent need to reduce emissions.

A Carbon Tracker study in 2015 found that fossil fuel companies risked wasting more than $2tn over the coming decade by pursuing coal, oil and gas projects that could be worthless in the face of international action on climate change and advances in renewables '€“ in turn posing substantial threats to investor returns.

CDP says its aims with the carbon majors project are both to improve transparency among fossil fuel producers and to help investors understand the emissions associated with their fossil fuel holdings.

A fifth of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions are backed by public investment, according to the report. '€œThat puts a significant responsibility on those investors to engage with carbon majors and urge them to disclose climate risk,'€ says Faria.

Investors should move out of fossil fuels, says Michael Brune, executive director of US environmental organisation the Sierra Club. '€Not only is it morally risky, it'€™s economically risky. The world is moving away from fossil fuels towards clean energy and is doing so at an accelerated pace. Those left holding investments in fossil fuel companies will find their investments becoming more and more risky over time.'€

There is a '€œgrowing wave of companies that are acting in the opposite manner to the companies in this report,'€ says Brune. Nearly 100 companies including Apple, Facebook, Google and Ikea have committed to 100% renewable power under the RE100 initiative. Volvo recently announced that all its cars would be electric or hybrid from 2019.

And oil and gas companies are also embarking on green investments. Shell set up a renewables arm in 2015 with a $1.7bn investment attached and a spokesperson for Chevron says it'€s '€committed to managing its [greenhouse gas] emissions'€ and is investing in two of the world'€s largest carbon dioxide injection projects to capture and store carbon. A BP spokesperson says its '€œdetermined to be part of the solution'€ for climate change and is '€investing in renewables and low-carbon innovation.'€ And ExxonMobil, which has faced heavy criticism for its environmental record, has been exploring carbon capture and storage.

But for many the sums involved and pace of change are nowhere near enough. A research paper published last year by Paul Stevens, an academic at think tank Chatham House, said international oil companies were no longer fit for purpose and warned these multinationals that they faced a '€œnasty, brutish and short'€ end within the next 10 years if they did not completely change their business models.

Investors now have a choice, according to Charlie Kronick, senior programme advisor at Greenpeace UK. '€œThe future of the oil industry has already been written: the choice is will its decline be managed, returning capital to shareholders to be reinvested in the genuine industries of the future, or will they hold on, hoping not be the last one standing when the music stops?'€

Top 100 producers and their cumulative greenhouse gas emissions from 1988-2015


CountCompanyPercentage of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions
1China (Coal)14.32%
2Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco)4.50%
3Gazprom OAO3.91%
4National Iranian Oil Co2.28%
5ExxonMobil Corp1.98%
6Coal India1.87%
7Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex)1.87%
8Russia (Coal)1.86%
9Royal Dutch Shell PLC1.67%
10China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC)1.56%
11BP PLC1.53%
12Chevron Corp1.31%
13Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA)1.23%
14Abu Dhabi National Oil Co1.20%
15Poland Coal1.16%
16Peabody Energy Corp1.15%
17Sonatrach SPA1.00%
18Kuwait Petroleum Corp1.00%
19Total SA0.95%
20BHP Billiton Ltd0.91%
22Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras)0.77%
23Lukoil OAO0.75%
24Rio Tinto0.75%
25Nigerian National Petroleum Corp0.72%
26Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas)0.69%
27Rosneft OAO0.65%
28Arch Coal Inc0.63%
29Iraq National Oil Co0.60%
30Eni SPA0.59%
31Anglo American0.59%
32Surgutneftegas OAO0.57%
33Alpha Natural Resources Inc0.54%
34Qatar Petroleum Corp0.54%
35PT Pertamina0.54%
36Kazakhstan Coal0.53%
37Statoil ASA0.52%
38National Oil Corporation of Libya0.50%
39Consol Energy Inc0.50%
40Ukraine Coal0.49%
41RWE AG0.47%
42Oil & Natural Gas Corp Ltd0.40%
43Glencore PLC0.38%
45Sasol Ltd0.35%
46Repsol SA0.33%
47Anadarko Petroleum Corp0.33%
48Egyptian General Petroleum Corp0.31%
49Petroleum Development Oman LLC0.31%
50Czech Republic Coal0.30%
51China Petrochemical Corp (Sinopec)0.29%
52China National Offshore Oil Corp Ltd (CNOOC)0.28%
53Ecopetrol SA0.27%
54Singareni Collieries Company0.27%
55Occidental Petroleum Corp0.26%
56Sonangol EP0.26%
57Tatneft OAO0.23%
58North Korea Coal0.23%
59Bumi Resources0.23%
60Suncor Energy Inc0.22%
61Petoro AS0.21%
62Devon Energy Corp0.20%
63Natural Resource Partners LP0.19%
64Marathon Oil Corp0.19%
65Vistra Energy0.19%
66Encana Corp0.18%
67Canadian Natural Resources Ltd0.17%
68Hess Corp0.16%
69Exxaro Resources Ltd0.16%
70YPF SA0.15%
71Apache Corp0.15%
72Murray Coal0.15%
73Alliance Resource Partners LP0.15%
74Syrian Petroleum Co0.15%
75Novatek OAO0.14%
76NACCO Industries Inc0.13%
78Adaro Energy PT0.13%
79Petroleos del Ecuador0.12%
80Inpex Corp0.12%
81Kiewit Mining Group0.12%
82AP Moller (Maersk)0.11%
83Banpu Public Co Ltd0.11%
84EOG Resources Inc0.11%
85Husky Energy Inc0.11%
86Kideco Jaya Agung PT0.10%
87Bahrain Petroleum Co (BAPCO)0.10%
88Westmoreland Coal Co0.10%
89Cloud Peak Energy Inc0.10%
90Chesapeake Energy Corp0.10%
91Drummond Co0.09%
92Teck Resources Ltd0.09%
94OMV AG0.06%
95Noble Energy Inc0.06%
96Murphy Oil Corp0.06%
97Berau Coal Energy Tbk PT0.06%
98Bukit Asam (Persero) Tbk PT0.05%
99Indika Energy Tbk PT0.04%
100Southwestern Energy Co0.04%