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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

100 firms responsible for majority of CO2 emissions

Approximately 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 can be traced to just 100 fossil fuel suppliers, according to new research by climate change research provider CDP.

100 firms responsible for emissions / shutterstock
Relatively small number of firms responsible for emissions ©Shutterstock

It shows that the highest emitting companies since human-induced climate change was officially recognised, include ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, Peabody, Total and BHP Billton.

However, the Chinese coal industry was by far the biggest culprit since 1988, accounting for 14.3% of global emissions, followed by Saudi Arabian oil company Aramco, which was responsible for 4.5%.

“We are seeing critical shifts that put the tipping point for a low-carbon transition in reach, and this data shows how important the role of the carbon majors, and the investors who own them, will be,” CDP technical director, Pedro Faria, said.

The research shows these 100 providers are the source of 635 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, with just 25 corporate and state producers responsible for 51%.

It reveals that 32% of historic emissions come from publicly listed investor-owned companies, 59% from state-owned firms, and 9% from private investment.

In addition, it shows that companies have released 833Gt of CO2 in the last 28 years, compared with 820Gt in the previous 237 at the birth of the industrial revolution.

If the trend of fossil fuel extraction continues over the next 28 years, the report argues that global average temperature rises would be on course to increase 4ºC by the end of the century.

That would result in substantial species extinction and large food scarcity risks worldwide, it adds.

“Fossil fuel extraction companies will need to plan their future in the context of a radical transformation of the global energy system,” Climate Accountability Institute director, Richard Heede.

“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.”

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