These twenty companies bear historical responsibility for the climate crisis.

They alone are responsible for a good third of modern greenhouse gas emissions.


Someday history will probably judge. Twenty companies, twenty oil and gas companies, more than half of which are state-owned enterprises, hold the sad record of being responsible for 35 % of greenhouse gas emissions alone. For decades, they have contributed to climate change and to the situation of no return that we are heading towards. They alone have knowingly contributed to the release of hundreds of billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. All of them have known the scope and consequences of their actions for at least five decades. None of them have backed down. On the contrary, even today they still spend hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying to buy the complicity of politicians and to buy the right to massacre the planet. They all say they are virtuous and green. They all lie.

It's the NGO Climate Accountability Institutethe world's leading authority on the role of oil in the climate emergency that unveils the list: twenty oil and gas companies responsible for having contributed most to the climate crisis since 1965. They have collectively contributed, through the combustion of their products, to the production of 480 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane. This figure is equivalent to 35 % of all the world's greenhouse gas emissions.


Saudi Aramco is by far the most polluting of the twenty companies on this list. It belongs to Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter. If the other Gulf companies are present in good places in this black list (Abu Dhabi National Oil Co or Kuwait Petroleum Corp), we also find the Russian company Gazprom or the American companies Chevron, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy or ConocoPhillips. The French Total appears in this table of major polluters, as do the British BP and the Anglo-Dutch Shell. Asia is not absent or exonerated from responsibility, represented by PetroChina or India's Coal India. On the other side of the world, Latin America is present with Pemex, Petroleos of Venezuela or Petrobras of Brazil.

The blacklist of global polluters was compiled on the basis of the annual production of oil, natural gas and coal reported by each company. The experts commissioned by the NGO then calculated the amount of carbon and methane contained in the fuels produced and emitted into the atmosphere throughout the supply chain, from extraction to end use.

It was then found that 90% of the emissions attributed to the top 20 contributors to the climate crisis came from the use of their products, such as gasoline, kerosene, natural gas and thermal coal. One tenth came from the extraction, refining and delivery of finished fuels.

These findings point to the historical role of fossil fuel companies in the escalation of the climate crisis. In another study dating from 2017 by Peter Frumhoff from theUnion of Concerned Scientists In the United States, CO2 and methane emissions from the 90 largest industrial carbon producers are responsible for nearly half of the global temperature increase and nearly a third of the sea level rise between 1880 and 2010.

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The tree that hides the forest

These twenty companies are the big tree that hides a small dark forest. Indeed, behind these brands, most of which are very well known to the general public, hide names that most people have never heard of. Most of them are state-owned companies with rights to exploit national fossil fuel reserves. They are only a handful - no more than 70 in the world - but they own 90 % of the world's oil and gas, surpassing in financial size publicly traded companies such as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell.

With a few rare exceptions, these companies, which make rain and shine on fossil fuels, are state-controlled corporations. They never report publicly on their activities because they are not listed on the stock exchange and therefore have no disclosure requirements. Their meetings are held behind closed doors, and they are remarkable for their almost total opacity, their small number of officials - mostly high-ranking officials or oligarchs - and their total disregard for any attempt to coordinate any action against the climate emergency. They are not the ones to be counted on to save the planet.


These opaque organizations refuse to give the slightest hint about their strategy, let alone their climate strategy. The British daily The Guardian surveyed twelve of them to find out whether their commitments were consistent with the Paris Climate Accord and what they planned to do to move to a low-carbon economy by 2050. None of them answered the questions.

Patrick Heller, the lead author of a major report on fossil fuel regulators, Natural Resource Governancecomments on their attitude like this: « Regulators still find it difficult to obtain reliable and regular information on their expenditures, future production projections or fundamental business strategies. This makes it difficult for the public to assess with confidence the sustainability of national climate change commitments or to continue the transition to a cleaner energy mix. It is also difficult to assess the risks that the money companies spend on exploration today may end up in fixed assets that will not be financially viable as the world moves away from fossil fuels. ".

Guilty promiscuity

Bryony Worthington, Executive Director of theEnvironmental Defence Fund Europe explained that state governments and fossil fuel companies were inseparable in terms of interests and behaviour in climate negotiations. As an attentive observer of international climate negotiations over the past twenty years, she makes the following observation: "... the international climate negotiations have been a major source of concern for the world's poor. There is no distance between the oil companies and their governments in negotiations - they are the same. ». And many of them, she continues - particularly Saudi Arabia - have " arrested progress ".

That's what thought Michael Mann, one of the world's leading climate scientists, saying that the revelations of the Climate Accountability Institute highlighted the role of fossil fuel companies and called on politicians at the upcoming climate negotiations in Chile in December to take urgent action to curb their activities. « The great tragedy of the climate crisis is that seven and a half billion people have to pay the price - in the form of a degraded planet - so that a few dozen polluting interests can continue to make record profits. It is a great moral failure of our political system that we have allowed this to happen."

The share of responsibility of these companies in the climate crisis is considerable. If, one day, a court of law were to be called upon to judge them for the crime of ecocide, their case would, at this stage, be extremely heavy. However, in addition, aggravating circumstances could be incriminated against them. Indeed, these companies and state agencies knowingly polluted.

They knew

The director of the NGO Climate Accountability Institute who conducted this study, Richard Heede, states in his report: " Since the late 1950s, major companies and industry associations have been aware and have deliberately ignored the threat to climate change posed by the continued use of their products. ». He adds that he chose 1965 as the starting point for his analysis because recent studies have shown that by that precise date, the environmental impact of fossil fuels was known to industry leaders and politicians, particularly in the United States.

For example, in November 1965, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson issued a report prepared by the Chair's Scientific Advisory Committee Expert Group on Environmental Pollution, which clearly outlined the likely impact of continued fossil fuel production on global warming.

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In the same year, the President of theAmerican Petroleum Institute said at its annual meeting: " One of the most important predictions in the [President's Report] is that carbon dioxide is being added to the earth's atmosphere by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas at such a rate that by the year 2000, the heat balance will be altered to the point of causing significant climate change."

A few years later, in 1982, Exxon predicted that by 2090, CO2 levels would have doubled compared to the first years of the 19th century, and that this would lead, according to the scientific knowledge available at the time, to an increase of about 3° Celsius in average global temperatures. In 1988, an internal Shell report anticipated similar effects, but concluded that CO2 levels could double earlier, around 2030.

Shell's estimates predicted a 60 to 70 centimetre rise in sea level, and indicated that warming could also lead to the disintegration of the ice sheet in West Antarctica, this time resulting in a global rise in sea levels. from five to six metres "sufficient to submerge entire countries at too low an altitude.

Shell analysts also warned in their internal confidential documents about the "risk of disappearance of local ecosystems and habitat destruction "; they foreshadowed the increase in " runoff, destructive flooding and flooding of low-lying farmland ", so, they wrote, " new sources of drinking water would be required "to compensate for changes in rainfall. Global changes in air temperature would, in turn, " radically change the way people live and work ». In total, Shell concluded, " the changes may be the biggest in history. ".

Exxon, on the other hand, warned that " potentially catastrophic events had to be taken into account ".

Cynicism at the masterful stage

The oil companies were well aware of the risks they posed to the planet and to humanity. But with masterful cynicism, they constructed a line of discourse that will never change until today. Indeed, refusing to take any responsibility, oil, gas and coal companies claim that it is up to States and consumers to assume the "responsibility" for their own actions. main charge The "climate change" issue is not for the energy industry. What's more, these companies have been relentless in their campaigns to denigrate climate research and use their full weight to push back clean energy policies.

To get their messages across, they have committed hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying and misinformation campaigns. A study conducted in early 2019 found that the five largest publicly traded oil and gas companies alone spend nearly $200 million each year lobbying to delay, control or block climate change policies.

As a result, world oil production continues to break records. Most of the world's cars run on fossil fuels. What's worse, car salesmen's promotional campaigns have focused on their most fuel-hungry models. For example, a study by the International Energy Agency published on October 16th we learn that there are 200 million SUVs on the road worldwide. These two-tonne models, fashionable in our cities, are selling like hotcakes, and this year they have become the major cause of CO2 emissions and global warming, surpassing heavy industry, trucks and aviation in terms of growth in pollutant emissions.

Words, words...

But these destructive performances are always shrouded in fine words. On Tuesday 15 October, the oil tankers' high mass was held in London. Oil & Money. The bosses of all the oil giants were present and all, without exception, displayed their good ecological intentions. To whom it may concern. Starting with the Saudi Amin Nasser, president of the Aramco group, who opened the session by explaining that "... we have to be very careful not to get into a situation where we are not going to be able to get away with it. the fight against climate change [was] of crucial importance ». These words were reiterated, hand on heart by Ben Van Beurden, boss of Royal Dutch Shell, but also by BP boss Bob Dudley and Total boss Patrick Pouyanné. The Secretary General of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opep), Mohammed Barkindo, also went to close the forum on Thursday with his promise that the black gold cartel was taking over". deadly seriously "of the fight against global warming.

In the face of the colossal revenues and results generated by the oil industries, the little green gestures made by these companies look like mirrors to the larks. AFP reports that Total has highlighted the 1.5 to 2 billion euros annual investment in low-carbon electricity by 2025 and the launch of a photovoltaic plant at Villers-Saint-Paul in northern France.

Insufficient gestures to restore their image. Demonstrations by citizens, young people and radicals take place every week to denounce the ravages of black gold on the climate. Last week, the Extinction Rebelion movement went to cover Total's headquarters in La Défense with black paint. Symbolic actions, including that of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) which, for example, decided to forego the valuable aid it was receiving from the British oil company BP.

Faced with this cynicism of the fossil industries, Richard Heede condemns without reservation: " Oil, gas and coal executives derail progress and offer platitudes when their vast capital, technical expertise and moral obligation should allow rather than thwart the transition to a low-carbon future. ".

The life-saving bursting of a big bubble?

Oil companies are reprehensible. But before a court of law one day judges them, they will probably be judged first by their deal. That's what Jeremy Rikfin thinks in his latest book... The Global Green New Dealpublished on October 16 by LLL. It predicts " According to studies by banking and financial groups, thousands of billions of dollars of fossil fuels are becoming locked-in assets that will become obsolete before reaching the end of their life cycle. They can never be amortized. At the moment it is a gigantic, historic financial bubble, $100 trillion according to Citigroup, $40 trillion according to The Economist. It is expected to burst by 2028. "

This huge bubble will burst for one simple reason: soon we will no longer need nuclear power plants, refineries, coal plants, natural gas pipelines. Because behaviours will have changed and minds will have recovered. Not among the priests of fossil fuels, not among the politicians currently in power, too constrained in their habits and connivance. Not even among consumers, who will find it difficult to change their habits that have been in place for years of marketo-publicist brainwashing. No, according to Jeremy Rifkin, it's the young people, hundreds of millions of them, who will take charge of the situation.

Kids on the street! " he exclaimed, arguing that it is a "   new political movement, unprecedented in our 200,000 years of recent history. "For him," The younger generation expresses itself as a species, an endangered species. ». He starts to prophesy: " Young people are not only going to protest, they are going to organise themselves to fight, at their own level, against global warming. They will lead municipalities, schools, universities, businesses and they will be able to take action. ".

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If these oil companies exist, it is because we have all consumed, and whether or not people like the author of this article dislike it, I want to continue to live properly like billions of humans and I refuse to go back to the stone age. We have the technological means to deal with rising water levels, to adapt plant genomes, to recapture CO2 and to produce clean electricity using nuclear power.
Then I'm tired of this kind of talk.

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