The majority of fossil fuel companies produce more emissions after Paris Agreement than before: report

The majority of fossil fuel companies produce more emissions after Paris Agreement than before: report
  • PublishedApril 5, 2024

Most fossil fuel companies have produced more emissions in the seven years since the Paris Agreement was signed than the seven years before the major climate pact, a new report reveals.

It found that 80 per cent of the fossil fuel and cement emissions since the Paris Agreement have come from just 57 producers.

State-owned oil producer Saudi Aramco has produced the most carbon emissions since the Paris Agreement, making up 4.8 per cent of global emissions.

The aim of the Paris Agreement forged in 2015 is for all countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming to at least 1.5 degrees.

The report is released by UK non-for-profit think tank InfluenceMap, which focuses on climate risks and is known for its work tracking the lobbying of fossil fuel emitters.

This latest analysis is based on emissions data collected in a database called Carbon Majors that has been running since 2013.

It attributes emissions to the top 122 coal, oil, gas and cement producers and ranks them for their overall contribution to climate change. These entities account for three-quarters of global emissions.

InfluenceMap’s program manager Daan Van Acker said the aim was to bring more transparency to the sources of the bulk of global emissions.

“The main objective of the database is really to be an accountability tool, holding these entities to account for the products that they’ve produced, which are the foremost contributor to global climate change,” he said.

“It’s a very limited group of companies that are such a significant portion of global emissions.”

Four Australian companies are included in the database: BHP, Woodside, Santos and Whitehaven Coal. Three of them increased emissions since 2016, according to the research, however it noted that BHP had a “significant” decrease in emissions.

An upwards trending line graph showing emissions for the world's regions
This graph shows emissions of both investor- and state-owned companies by region.(Influence Map)

Holding big polluters to account

The report traces emissions as far back as the Industrial Revolution, when humans began burning fossil fuels and emitting increasing amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

Overall, China’s national coal production has been the biggest single source of pollution, accounting for 14 per cent of global historical emissions, with the former Soviet Union coming in second.

Mr Van Acker said the research had been applied in many ways to hold companies to account, including climate litigation.

“We’re seeing the data being used in legal cases, holding these fossil fuel producers to account for climate damages,” he said.

Pollution from a power plant.
The database is an accountability document that assists research and helps argue climate litigation.(Getty Images: baranozdemir)

The database was cited in a recent case in which a Belgian farmer was arguing that an oil and gas company was partly responsible for damage to his farm from extreme weather.

“We anticipate that that will only continue to happen more as we go forward,” Mr Van Acker said.

“We’re also seeing [the data] in academic research, quantifying the contribution that the emissions by these producers have made to, for example, sea level rise to forest fire risk, and so on.

“But also it can be used by investors in the companies or by campaign groups looking to pressure these companies.”

The Paris Agreement also marked a change in coal emissions; while investor-owned coal companies have reduced their output since 2015, coal emissions from state-owned companies have increased.

“It’s certainly an interesting issue to analyse further, what’s causing that, whether it’s investor pressure that has managed to somewhat drive down the production of coal among investor-owned companies,” Mr Van Acker told the ABC.

The top shareholder-owned companies responsible for historical emissions are Chevon, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, and ConocoPhillips and they have contributed 11 per cent of historical emissions.

In an initial response, Chevron Australia pointed to its latest climate report, saying the company supported the global ambitions of the Paris Agreement.

“We believe the future of energy is lower carbon […] and we aspire to reach net zero upstream emissions [Scope 1 and 2] by 2050,” a spokesman said.

Shell Australia declined to comment, saying it could not verify the data and would only comment on their own emissions.

The ABC has also contacted BHP, Santos, Woodside, Whitehaven Coal, and ExxonMobil for comment.

To compile their database, the researchers use company data on their production of fossil fuels to calculate emissions, as well as industry and government data when needed.


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