The fossil fuel giants have played an overwhelming role in the planet’s mounting climate crisis. According to a new report, just 20 companies have pumped out more than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion over the past few decades.
The Climate Accountability Institute (CAI) has revealed that a handful of oil, gas, and coal companies are responsible for 480 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and energy-related methane pumped into Earth’s atmosphere since 1965, accounting for 35 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion between 1965 and 2017.
Twelve of the top 20 offenders are state-owned companies, while the remaining eight are private investor-owned companies, including four companies based in the USA.
Starting with the worst offenders, here's a list of the companies.
- Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia) — 4.38 percent
- Chevron (USA) — 3.2 percent
- Gazprom (Russia) — 3.19 percent
- ExxonMobile (USA) — 3.09 percent
- National Iranian Oil Co. (Iran) — 2.63 percent
- BP (UK) — 2.51 percent
- Royal Dutch Shell (The Netherlands) — 2.36 percent
- Coal India (India) — 1.71 percent
- Pemex (Mexico) — 1.67 percent
- Petroleos de Venezuela (Venezuela) — 1.16 percent
- PetroChina/China Natl Petroleum (China) — 1.15 percent
- Peabody Energy (USA) — 1.14 percent
- ConocoPhillips (USA) — 1.12 percent
- Abu Dhabi (UAE) — 1.01 percent
- Kuwait Petroleum Corp (Kuwait) — 1 percent
- Iraq National Oil Co. (Iraq) — 0.93 percent
- Total SA (France) — 0.91 percent
- Sonatrach (Algeria) — 0.91 percent
- BHP Billiton (Australia) — 0.72 percent
- Petrobras (Brazil) — 0.64 percent
"Although global consumers from individuals to corporations are the ultimate emitters of carbon dioxide, we focus on the fossil fuel companies that, in our view, have produced and marketed the carbon fuels to billions of consumers with the knowledge that their use as intended will worsen the climate crisis," the CAI said in a press release.
The huge majority of their emissions are directly generated through the combustion of their products, primarily petrol, natural gas, coal, and jet fuel. The remaining amount is generated through the processing and transportation of their products.
The report also highlights that half of all global fossil fuel and cement CO2 emissions since 1751 have been emitted since 1990. Since 1965, a global total of 1.35 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent has been poured into the atmosphere.
Based on their findings, the CAI state that the emissions of these 20 companies must peak immediately if there is any hope of achieving the goals set by the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2017, ie to reduce emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050.
Furthermore, the report concludes by arguing the fossil fuel giants have a “significant moral, financial, and legal responsibility” to help curtail and compensate for the runaway effects of climate change, which are becoming increasingly frequent, widespread, and violent.
“In my view, fossil fuel firms were morally and legally obliged to warn that continued use of carbon fuels threatens our health and welfare, and to accelerate the conversation on how to reduce the threat. Instead the industry has for decades invested millions in climate denial and obfuscation in order to delay legislative action and avoid losing market share,” Richard Heede, report author from the CAI’s Carbon Majors project, wrote in an opinion piece for The Guardian.
Edited: This article has been edited to highlight that the report focuses on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion, not all greenhouse gas emissions.