July 10, 2017: Historic new research from CDP, voted no. 1 climate change research provider by institutional investors, in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute, today reveals that 71% of all global GHG1 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 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 data2, the database captures nearly one trillion tonnes (923 billion) of GHGs from the 1003 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 century4 – likely to entail substantial species extinction and large food scarcity risks worldwide5.

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 report6 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.

The CDP Carbon Majors Report 2017 is available here.

About CDP 

CDP is an international non-profit that drives companies and governments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, safeguard water resources and protect forests. Voted number one climate research provider by investors and working with institutional investors with assets of US$100 trillion, we leverage investor and buyer power to motivate companies to disclose and manage their environmental impacts. Nearly 6,000 companies with some 60% of global market capitalization disclosed environmental data through CDP in 2016. This is in addition to the over 500 cities and 100 states and regions who disclosed, making CDP’s platform one of the richest sources of information globally on how companies and governments are driving environmental change. CDP, formerly Carbon Disclosure Project, is a founding member of the We Mean Business Coalition. Please follow @CDP to find out more. www.cdp.net

About Climate Accountability Institute 

CAI is an independent research institute focusing on anthropogenic climate change, dangerous interference with the climate system, the contribution of fossil fuel producers’ carbon production to atmospheric carbon dioxide content, and the risk and disclosure requirements of fossil fuel producers regarding emissions of greenhouse gases. CAI gratefully acknowledges financial support from Wallace Global Fund and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

About Carbon Majors

Download the Carbon Majors Report 2017 
Download the Carbon Majors Dataset 2017 
Download the Carbon Majors Methodology 2017

  • The Carbon Majors Database signals a break from traditional emission accounting methods, in that operational and product GHG emissions are attributed upstream to the producer. In-so-doing, global scale GHG emissions are traced to a small number of corporate decision-makers. The Carbon Majors Database in its original form was completed in 2013 by Richard Heede, Director of the Climate Accountability Institute (CAI). CDP began its relationship with the CAI in 2015 and is committed to keeping the Database securely stored, updated, and accessible to all stakeholders
  • Non-disclosed emissions are estimated using the method established in the IPCC’s 2006 ‘Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories’. Nearly all activity data is collected from sources available in the public domain, most of which are found in company annual reports and securities filings.
  • 90% of emissions in the Database comes from the combustion of their natural gas, oil, and coal (classified by WRI’s GHG Protocol as Scope 3 Category 11 ‘use of sold products’), and the remainder are operational emissions such as own-use of products, venting and flaring, and fugitive releases of methane (which fall under Scope 1). To help ensure accuracy, liquid hydrocarbon data is split into crude oils, natural gas liquids, and bitumen, while coal products are split by grade, such as bituminous and lignite, or by application, such as thermal and metallurgical.

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.
6 https://www.cdp.net/en/investor/sector-research/oil-and-gas-report