In 2019 the Guardian produced an investigative report detailing the carbon footprint of major companies. The report found that a mere 20 companies were at fault for over a third of the global carbon dioxide emissions. The 20 companies together as of 2019 have contributed to over 480bn tonnes of CO₂ since 1965. All fossil fuel companies, these corporations are causing a significant amount of manmade damage to our planet and its climate and ecosystems. Who are they and what, if anything, are they doing to help reduce their staggering carbon footprint? Gas, oil and coal companies comprise the list with 90% of the emissions they produce, being a result of the use of their products such as gas, jet fuel and thermal coal. The remaining 10% of emissions they produce came from their extraction and refinement processes. The industry giants that feature on the list range from well-known private or investor-owned companies such as BP and Shell, as well as state-owned companies such as Gazprom and Saudi Aramco. In ascending order, the top five polluting companies are: National Iranian Oil Co, ExxonMobil, Gazprom, Chevron and finally, the company with the largest carbon footprint, Saudi Aramco. So, are the big five doing anything to lower their carbon footprint?
Starting with number five, National Iranian Oil Co is Iran’s state-owned oil and natural gas producer and distributor. Estimated to have contributed over 35.66 billion tonnes equivalent of CO₂, they are the least transparent of the five in terms of their emissions and what they are doing to curb them. Talking generally in terms of Iran as a nation, they claim to view climate change as a serious threat yet are one of only a few nations yet to ratify the Paris Agreement. It is also estimated that only 0.1% of Iran’s energy comes from non-hydro renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. This is interesting as Iran, it has been suggested, would be one of the most efficient areas on Earth for mass solar farming.
Coming in at number four is ExxonMobil, the privately owned American multinational is a direct descendant of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. Having produced 41.90 billion tonnes of CO₂ since 1965, what measures are they taking to reduce their carbon footprint? They claim that their greenhouse gas plans are consistent with the goals set in 2015 in the Paris Agreement and have set a 2025 greenhouse gas emission reduction plan. They also plan to eliminate routine flaring by 2030 and to invest in lower-emission technologies including carbon capture and advanced biofuels.
Number three on the list is Russian, state-owned gas giant Gazprom, who have produced 43.23 tonnes equivalent of CO₂ as of 2019. Whereas most companies on the list have made pledges, Gazprom actually reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 14% in 2020 against 2019. Through employing advanced gas conservation technologies, they reduced emissions by 16 million tonnes CO₂ equivalent. The question is though, is this enough. Probably not considering 16 million tonnes of CO₂ isn’t a scratch on the 43.23 tonnes they have already contributed.
Up next, number two is Chevron, the privately owned American energy company is the second largest oil company in the US. Coming in just above Gazprom in the table with 43.35 billion tonnes equivalent of CO₂ polluted into the atmosphere. They set a target of net zero upstream emissions by 2050, by then it may be too late. By 2028 they aim to have spent $2bn to deliver 4 million tonnes emissions reductions per year. They are also in support of the World Bank’s Zero Flaring by 2030 initiative. Steps in the right direction but this is probably not going to implement real change.
Finally, the company with the biggest carbon footprint is Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian state-owned oil and gas giants. Topping the table with 59.26 billion tonnes CO₂ emitted since 1965, they have by far the worst carbon footprint. They claim to have researched and developed a process ready for commercial use that will use waste CO2 to create concrete, which according to them is the second most used material on Earth. They have also been capturing CO₂ and injecting it into underground reservoirs which can then be reused to make various products. They do not seem to have any pledges that state actual emission reduction targets, however.
Money is the controlling factor in all of this. All these companies’ immense wealth relies on the production of fossil fuels, so it would be unlikely that any of them would act in a serious way to stop production to a level that would stop climate change. The demand for fossil fuels must be eradicated and the world must switch to green energy sources such as hydro, wind and solar. Until the financial rewards from the production of fossil fuels is gone then these powerful companies and nations will continue to produce them at dangerous levels. Simply making small cuts to emissions will not be enough, unfortunately.