The appointment of oil executive Al Jaber as President of this year’s UN climate summit (COP28), hosted by petrostate United Arab Emirates, caused an uproar. It’s another important COP because it is set to conclude the first ever “Global Stocktake”, a process introduced under the Paris Agreement to assess the global response to climate change every five years and correct course accordingly. With a critical spotlight already on the COP President and host, we take this opportunity for a “Company Stocktake”. How are the private western oil and gas majors faring in reducing emissions by 2050 – the year by which many countries and companies have pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions?
The Paris Agreement set the landmark goal of limiting global heating to 1.5°C relative to pre-industrial levels. The Global Carbon Project estimated the remaining CO2 that can still be emitted from the beginning of 2023 for a 50% chance of staying below 1.5°C of warming at 380 billion tonnes of CO2. This carbon budget does not have a timeline, it is a limited amount of carbon that the world can emit in total, to stay within the Paris Agreement goal.
According to our analysis of data by energy business intelligence agency Rystad, between 2023-2050, BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and TotalEnergies alone are forecasted to produce oil and gas, which when burnt, will emit nearly 47 billion tonnes of CO2. This is equivalent to almost one eighth of the remaining global carbon budget for staying below 1.5°C.
Instead of reducing their production to zero, in 2050 alone, these five major private western oil and gas companies are estimated to still produce oil and gas, which when burnt, equates to nearly 900 million tonnes of CO2. To balance out some of their emissions, many of these companies claim they will use methods designed to reduce emissions, such as carbon capture and storage technologies, according to Net Zero Tracker. However, carbon capture and storage remains unproven at scale and highly controversial. This puts the world on a dangerous trajectory of significantly overshooting climate targets.
Countries which have historically contributed the least to climate change are often those most at risk of climate impacts. When comparing the five major companies’ projected emissions in 2050 to the 2021 emissions of the five countries most at risk of climate change impacts the contrast is stark.
In net zero target year 2050, these five majors are projected to emit over 33 times more than the five countries most at risk of climate impacts did in 2021 together. The five countries most at risk of climate impacts are Niger, Somalia, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, and Sudan according to the vulnerability ranking by the University of Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Initiative.
Of the five companies the projected largest emitter in 2050 is ExxonMobil (268 million tonnes of CO2) producing approximately 13 times more than Sudan in 2021 (21 million tonnes of CO2), the highest emitter of the five countries most at risk of climate change.
This analysis shows that the world’s top five private oil and gas companies, which already bear a huge responsibility for climate change, are not doing enough to cut emissions now or in the future. Instead, they are on a dangerous path of foregoing drastic action now and continuing with climate wrecking emissions. COP28 and the first Global Stocktake is a crucial moment for changing course to ensure that countries and companies make true progress on achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. This will mean that governments must scale up investment in renewable technologies and demand reduction measures to reduce reliance on fossil fuel production.
These companies were selected because they are the five largest integrated private sector oil and gas companies based on revenue as of 2023, according to Thompson Reuters data via Statista.
Country climate risk is based on the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative world wide ranking of Vulnerability. It measures a country's exposure, sensitivity and capacity to adapt to the negative effects of climate change.
Emissions data (MtCO₂) for 2021 by the five countries most at risk of climate change impacts were sourced from Global Carbon Atlas.
The data on forecasted oil and gas production was sourced from energy business intelligence agency Rystad Energy’s UCube database. UCube is an integrated field-by-field database of the global upstream oil and gas market, covering the time span from 1900 to 2100. Rystad’s data is widely referenced by major oil and gas companies, the media and international bodies such as the IEA.
UCube takes into account oil and gas demand to project asset-level supply. Projections are based on data sources including company reporting (e.g., earnings and profits reporting) and policies, government sources and policies, energy service reporting, energy agencies and academic research and news articles. Where reported data is unavailable, data is modelled based on the above sources and supported by a comprehensive database of global oil and gas fields.
We sourced the data of forecasted production for the period 2023-2050. The data includes assets that are already producing (all assets that are currently producing), under development (assets for which development has been approved by companies and government but production has not yet started) or discovery (assets where discoveries have been made, but are not yet in a phase of further development). We did not include Rystad’s undiscovered life cycle category, which covers assets where discoveries have not yet been made.
The data covers only crude oil and gas production, not NGL and condensate, making these conservative production estimates. The production data includes BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and TotalEnergies. Production in barrels of oil equivalent for oil and in billion cubic meters for gas was converted to the equivalent CO2 emissions using industry conversion factors. Please note that the carbon emissions relate to end-use emissions only, i.e., how much carbon would be emitted if the projected oil and gas production were burnt by end users, it does not include the upstream emissions that arise from oil and gas production. The data is available on request.