It may be no big surprise that the fossil fuel industry tops the list of the biggest polluters. Photo: Thomas Hawk - BY-NC

The biggest polluters

New report shows just 100 companies are source of over 70% of carbon dioxide emissions.

New research from CDP reveals that 71 per cent 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 emitted since 1988, the year human-induced climate change was officially recognised. The data also shows that 32 per cent of these legacy emissions come from companies that are public investor-owned, highlighting the power of investors in the transition to a sustainable economy. CDP is a not-for-profit charity that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts.

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 per cent 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 previous years: 833 Gt CO2e in the 28-year period from 1988 to 2015, compared with 820 Gt CO2e in the 237 years between 1988 and the birth of the industrial revolution, measured from 1751. Including all historical years of data, the database captures nearly one trillion tonnes (923 billion) of GHGs from the 100 producers, which amounts to 52 per cent 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.

Compiled from press release by Reinhold Pape

Carbon majors report 2017


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