Net-zero a joke? New report says 57 sources drive 80% of global emissions

April 5, 2024 in News by RBN Staff



The report exposes just how far off-track we are when it comes to reaching the net-zero goals set out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.



new report reveals that progress made towards the Paris Agreement goals is virtually meaningless—thanks to a tiny group of mega-polluters growing their fossil fuel business. This is a shocking slap in the face to those worried about the future of our planet to fight global emissions.

According to the findings, over the past seven years, a mere 57 companies and countries have been responsible for a mind-boggling 80% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from cement and fossil fuels. This bombshell exposes just how far off-track we are when it comes to reaching the net-zero goals set out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.



Carbon Majors & Global CO2 Emissions (1854–2022). Credits: Carbon Majors

The report, released by the think tank InfluenceMap, relies on a powerful tool called the Carbon Majors database. The extensive database, compiled since 2013, tracks the emissions histories of the biggest names in the oil, gas, coal, and cement industries. It breaks down pollution sources into investor-owned companies (like Chevron), state-owned companies (like Saudi Aramco), and even entire nation-states.

Historically, investor-owned companies have been responsible for 31% of all tracked emissions (440 GtCO2e), with giants like Chevron, ExxonMobil, and BP leading the pack. State-owned companies are linked to a troubling 33% (465 GtCO2e), with Saudi Aramco, Gazprom, and the National Iranian Oil Company being the biggest offenders.

Emissions by Entity Type (1940–2022). Credits: Carbon Majors

Nation-states contribute 36% (516 GtCO2e), with China’s coal production and the Former Soviet Union as dominating sources.

Uncomfortable truth about climate progress

What does this report tell us? Fossil fuel production continues at unprecedented levels, with just a handful of super-polluters accounting for most of the damage. This highlights the depressing reality: countries committed to keeping global warming below 2°C will have to drastically alter their course—and fast.

The Carbon Major database is a call for accountability. It underscores the need to expose companies that talk big on climate action but drag their feet in reality. These companies need clear guidelines tied to the Paris Agreement and rigorous monitoring systems so we can see if they’re actually making progress.

Paris-compliant? Think again…

Researchers at top universities took the Carbon Majors data and created a framework to judge whether companies are aligning themselves with the Paris climate goals. They then tested the world’s 142 biggest fossil fuel producers against various scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The results? These fossil fuel giants exceeded their emissions budgets by a massive margin – in some cases, by over 70%. This lack of adherence to emissions restrictions reveals the disconnect between corporate talk and action.

The Carbon Majors database exposes the disconnect between the Paris Agreement and real-world action. Out of 100 companies analyzed, a shocking 58 increased their emissions output in the seven years after the Paris Agreement compared to the seven years before. This increase is most disturbing in Asia, where 87% (13 out of 15) of companies assessed have higher emissions, and in the Middle East, where the figure sits at 70% (7 out of 10). Europe (57%), South America (60%), Australia (75%), and Africa (50%) also show concerning increases. Only North America has a slight majority of companies (57%) reducing emissions.

The surge in emissions is deeply connected to a global uptick in coal use, particularly by state-controlled entities. While investor-owned companies decreased coal-linked emissions by 28% from 2015 to 2022, state-owned companies and coal-dependent nations increased theirs by 29% and 19% respectively. This disturbing trend undermines efforts to phase out coal, a major contributor to climate change.

The antidotes to greenwashing

One positive development is that state-owned fossil fuel companies, a major source of emissions increases, may be pushed towards transparency. Similarly, investor-owned companies will soon fall under new climate disclosure rules, making it harder to bury their emissions data in vague promises or jargon-filled reports.

Greater accountability for the top polluters will hopefully expose the rampant “greenwashing” we see today and provide a solid basis for action. Drastic cuts to fossil fuel production are a key part of the puzzle, but we also need a massive surge in investment directed toward clean, affordable, renewable energy sources. With decisive action on both fronts, the Paris Agreement goals become possible, and those consequences will be severe for everyone.