In Brief

The 20 firms behind one-third of carbon emissions

Report names the top offenders in escalating climate emergency

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A handful of companies are responsible for more than one-third of global carbon emissions, according to a new report.

The Guardian found that a 20-strong “cohort of state-owned and multinational firms” and their “relentless exploitation of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves” can be “directly linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era”.

The paper’s investigation, which analyses the amount of carbon dioxide each company has produced since 1965, says new data shows “fossil fuel companies have driven the climate crisis despite industry knowing the dangers”.

The Guardian says that the study shows that “many of the worst offenders are investor-owned companies that are household names around the world and spend billions of pounds on lobbying governments and portraying themselves as environmentally responsible”.

The four private companies at the top of the list – Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell – are behind more than 10% of the world’s carbon emissions since 1965.

A dozen of the worst offenders are state-owned firms, responsible for 20% of total emissions across the same period. Of these, Saudi oil company Aramco alone has produced 4.38% of the global total.

The researchers chose 1965 as the starting point for the data because it this is the time when the environmental impact of fossil fuels had come to be understood by industry leaders and politicians, particularly in the US.

The analysis was conducted by Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in the US, the world’s leading authority on the oil industry's role in the worsening climate emergency.

He said: “These companies and their products are substantially responsible for the climate emergency, have collectively delayed national and global action for decades, and can no longer hide behind the smokescreen that consumers are the responsible parties.

“Oil, gas, and coal executives derail progress and offer platitudes when their vast capital, technical expertise, and moral obligation should enable rather than thwart the shift to a low-carbon future.”

The report comes on the same day Shell announced a customer loyalty scheme to offset the carbon dioxide emissions of around 1.5 million road users in Britain, Reuters reports. The news agency notes that, like other oil companies, Shell “has come under pressure from shareholders to show how it plans to reduce its carbon footprint and help cut greenhouse gas emissions.”

The 20 firms are: Saudi Aramco, Chevron, Gazprom, ExxonMobil, National Iranian Oil Co, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Coal India, Pemex, Petróleos de Venezuela, PetroChina, Peabody Energy, ConocoPhillips, Abu Dhabi National Oil Co, Kuwait Petroleum Corp, Iraq National Oil Co, Total SA, Sonatrach, BHP Billiton and Petrobras.

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