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CDP: 70% of Global GHG Emissions Linked to Just 100 Companies

Image Credit: ExxonMobil/Fortune

71 percent of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since 1988 can be traced to just 100 fossil fuel producers, including ExxonMobil, Shell, BHP Billiton and Gazprom, says a new report by CDP. The data shows that 32 percent of these legacy emissions, which equate to approximately 635 billion tons of GHG, come from companies that are public investor-owned, highlighting the power of investors in the transition to a sustainable economy.

The Carbon Majors report also reveals that these global-scale emissions can be attributed to a small number of producers, thanks to a comprehensive dataset of historic company-related GHG emissions. From 1988 to 2015, just 25 fossil fuel producers are linked to 51 percent of global industrial GHG emissions. The highest emitting companies over the period since 1988 include:

  • Public investor-owned companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, Peabody, Total and BHP Billiton;
  • State-owned entities such as Saudi Aramco, Gazprom, National Iranian Oil, Coal India, Pemex, CNPC and Chinese coal, of which Shenhua Group and China National Coal Group are key players.

The report also demonstrates a doubling in the contribution of fossil fuels to climate change since 1988. All fossil fuel company operations and products worldwide have released more emissions in the last 28 years than in the 237 previously. Between 1988 to 2015, 833 GtCO2e were released into the atmosphere as opposed to 820 GtCO2e in the 237 years between 1988 and 1751 – the beginning of the industrial revolution. In 2015 alone, the fossil fuel industry and its products accounted for 91 percent of global industrial GHGs and over 70 percent of all anthropogenic GHG emissions. Including all historical years of data, CDP's new database captures nearly one trillion tons of GHGs from the 100 producers, which amounts to 52 percent of all industrial GHGs ever emitted. If the trend in fossil fuel extraction continues over the next 28 years as it has since 1988, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4°C by the end of the century.

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

“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. That puts a significant responsibility on those investors to engage with carbon majors and urge them to disclose climate risk in line with the FSB Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) recommendations, and set ambitious emission reduction targets through the Science Based Targets Initiative to ensure they are aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement,” Faria added.

The new CDP database also makes projections out to 2100 to illustrate the role of companies in addressing climate change. This follows a recent Oil and Gas sector report from CDP which revealed that the industry is starting to transition to renewable energy, with Norway’s Statoil. Not surprisingly, it found that European majors are outperforming their US peers in the shift to climate governance and strategy investment in low-carbon technology, with Statoil, Eni, Total, Shell + BG and BP taking ranking highest on CDP’s League Table.

“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.”


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