In a revealing article by The Guardian newspaper, new data from the Climate Accountability Institute disclosed how 20 fossil fuel companies across the globe have been accountable for one third of greenhouse gas emissions in the last few decades.

The global polluters list is made of both state-owned and investor-owned firms that have contributed heavily to the climate crisis by way of knowingly exploiting the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves. According to the list, 20 companies have caused 35% of energy-related carbon and methane worldwide – equal to approximately 480 tonnes of carbon dioxide since 1965.

The Climate Accountability Institute is a world-leader when it comes to assessing the damage caused by fossil fuel companies and the larger environmental impact on the globe. The organisation evaluates what global corporations have extracted from the ground and the resulting emissions released into the atmosphere since 1965. The date is universally agreed by experts to be when the harmful impacts of fossil fuels were known to industry leaders and politicians.

At the top of the list is Saudi Aramco, which surpasses the other companies by a long shot. The state-owned firm is solely responsible for 4% of all global emissions, a staggering number for one company to be answerable for. The other top contenders are Chevron, Gazprom, ExxonMobil and National Iranian Co. Household names BP and Shell are also high on the list as investor-owned firms.

Michael Mann, a climate scientist, told The Guardian: “The great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people must pay the price – in form of a degraded planet – so that a couple of dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits. It is a great moral failing of our political system that we have allowed this to happen.”

How Important Is This Data?

For a long time, there has been an outcry about individual responsibility in regard to navigating the climate crisis, whether it is using our cars or flying less. However while we make these small changes, companies like Chevron can quickly undo that work by contributing to one of the key instigators of global warming.

This data reminds us that real change is impossible until we start to hold these companies accountable for the sheer level of damage caused to the planet. In order to meet climate targets before it’s too late, particularly reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, there must a stronger outcry from our governments who have allowed state-owned companies like Saudi Aramco to operate unchecked for decades.

The Guardian reportedly reached out to several companies on the list, most of which avoided taking responsibility for their actions and did not respond to requests for comment.  

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Edward Cowley