A historic new report from CDP has revealed that 71% of all greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 can be traced back to only 100 fossil fuel producers, a group which together are responsible for 635 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
The new research from CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, which was recently voted the number one climate change research provider by institutional investors, analyzed industrial carbon dioxide and methane emissions from fossil fuel producers in the past, present, and future. The Carbon Majors report is based on the most comprehensive dataset of historic company-related greenhouse gas emissions produced to date, the Carbon Majors Database, which currently consists of 100 extant fossil fuel producers made up of 41 public investor-owned companies, 16 private investor-owned companies, 36 State-owned companies, and 7 state producers.
The report concluded that 71% of all global greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 come from just 100 companies, and that 32% of these legacy emissions stem from companies that are public-investor owned. While 100 companies and 71% emissions is an intense figure, it’s even worse when you dig in further — 25 fossil fuel producers are linked to 51% of all global industrial greenhouse gases.
In a completely unsurprising news, the report also found that public investor-owned companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, Peabody, Total, and BHP Billiton, were among the highest emitting companies since 1988, as well as State-owned entities such as Saudi Aramco, Gazprom, National Iranian Oil, Coal India, Pemex, and CNPC.
“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,” explained 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.
“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.”
For anyone wondering, 1988 represents the year that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed and the effects of human activities on the climate were officially recognized — because humanity won’t recognize an issue if there isn’t a committee to do so. Unfortunately, 1988 also represents another marker — since 1988, the fossil fuel industry has only become more carbon-intensive, with their contribution of fossil fuels to global warming doubling; “833 GtCO2e was emitted in just 28 years since 1988, compared with 820 GtCO2e in the 237 years between 1988 and the birth of the industrial revolution.”
In a chilling summary halfway through the report, CDP explains that the fossil fuel industry has not been a friend to the environment:
“Fossil fuels are the largest source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the world. The fossil fuel industry and its products accounted for 91% of global industrial GHGs in 2015, and about 70% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions. If the trend in fossil fuel extraction continues over the next 28 years as it has over the previous 28, then global average temperatures would be on course to rise around 4ºC above preindustrial levels by the end of the century. This would entail substantial species extinction, large risks of regional and global food scarcity, and could cross multiple tipping points in the Earth’s climate system, leading to even more severe consequences.”
“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,” added Richard Heede of The Climate Accountability Institute, who partnered with CDP on authoring the report.
“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.”