Groundbreaking ‘Carbon Majors’ research finds 100 active fossil fuel producers including ExxonMobil, Shell, BHP Billiton and Gazprom are linked to 71% of industrial greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.
- Carbon Majors Database is the most comprehensive dataset of historic company greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions ever compiled;
- 100 active fossil fuel producers are linked to 71% of global industrial greenhouse gases (GHGs) since 1988, the year in which human-induced climate change was officially recognized through the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC);
- Almost a third (32%) of historic emissions come from publicly listed investor-owned companies, 59% from state-owned companies, and 9% from private investment;
- Over half of global industrial emissions since 1988 can be traced to just 25 corporate and state producers;
- Fossil fuel companies and their products have released more emissions in the last 28 years than in the 237 years prior to 1988;
- Over half (52%) of all global industrial GHGs emitted since the start of the industrial revolution in 1751, have been traced to these 100 fossil fuel producers;
- Low carbon tipping point in reach if investors and carbon majors take urgent climate action.
Historic new research from DP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, reveals that 71% of all global GHG emissions since 1988 can be traced to just 100 fossil fuel producers. This group is the source of 635 billion tonnes of GHGs (1) emitted since 1988, the year human-induced climate change was officially recognized. The data also shows that 32% of these legacy emissions come from companies that are public investor-owned, highlighting the power of investors in the transition to a sustainable economy. The Carbon Majors report has been produced using the most comprehensive dataset of historic company-related greenhouse gas emissions produced to date.
The report also shows that these global-scale emissions are concentrated over a small number of producers. From 1988 to 2015, just 25 fossil fuel producers are linked to 51% 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 & China National Coal Group are key players.
Looking further back in time, the report also points towards 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 years previously: 833 GtCO2e in the 28-year period from 1988 to 2015, compared with 820 GtCO2e in the 237 years between 1988 and the birth of the industrial revolution, measured from 1751. Including all historical years of data (2), the database captures nearly one trillion tonnes (923 billion) of GHGs from the 100 (3) producers, which amounts to 52% of all industrial GHGs ever emitted.
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 (4) – likely to entail substantial species extinction and large food scarcity risks worldwide (5).
Pedro Faria, Technical Director at CDP says:
“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. 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.”
“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.’
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 (6) from CDP which revealed the industry is starting to transition to renewable energy. It found that European majors are outperforming their US peers in the shift to climate governance and strategy investment in low-carbon technology. In May this year, ExxonMobil shareholders called on the organisation to act on climate change.
Richard Heede of The Climate Accountability Institute adds:
“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. 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.”
Earlier this month CDP welcomed the FSB Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations to integrate climate information into mainstream financial filings. The report calls for increased governance that will bring climate change more squarely into the boardroom.
CDP is the leading global platform for environmental disclosure, insight and action for investors, companies, cities, states and regions.
Source: press release CDP
1 This excludes ‘non-industrial’ sources of anthropogenic GHG emissions such as carbon dioxide from land-use change and agricultural methane.
2 The earliest year of company data collected is 1854.
3 In addition, the Database contains 8 large non-extant producers, raising total emissions to 1,090 GtCO2e, or 62% of global industrial GHG emissions since 1751.
4 Compared with the IEA 6DS scenario projecting nearly a 4ºC rise by the end of the century, and 5.5ºC in the long-term.
5 Based on the IPCC (2014) AR5 WGII ‘Impacts, Adaption, and Vulnerability’ report’s assessment on some of the impacts associated with a 4ºC rise.