Just 90 companies have been responsible for almost two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions generated since the Industrial Revolution began, new research has suggested. And, 83 of them are energy companies producing oil, gas and coal.
If that is not worrying enough, the study by Richard Heede of the Colorado-based Climate Accountability Institute has concluded that half of all emissions have been produced in the last 25 years alone. What has got the goat of climate change activists on this count is that this happened long after governments and industry became aware of the deleterious effect that greenhouse emissions have on global warming.
The findings came even as the 12-day global climate summit in Warsaw ran into rough weather on Wednesday. The G77+ China group of 133 countries walked out of the Conference of Parties (COP) meeting after developed nations refused stayed adamant on the 'Loss and Damage mechanism'. The group argued that this compensation is needed now and not after 2015 when a new climate change pact is to be signed in Paris. Loss and Damage, created at the COP18 summit in Doha in 2012, is a mechanism whereby the world’s developed economies provide financial assistance to the developing world as compensation for greenhouse gases caused by the industrialisation of developed nations.
What the Heede study has done is establish the need for governments to get cracking on industry. The numbers are staggering. Out of the countless corporations that have come into being since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, as few as 90 have been responsible for 63 per cent of the cumulative global emissions of industrial carbon dioxide (914 gigatonne CO2) and methane between 1854 and 2010.
Heede called for a change in tack. He concluded in his report, "Shifting the perspective from nation-states to corporate entities —both investor-owned and state-owned companies— opens new opportunities for those entities to become part of the solution rather than passive (and profitable) bystanders to continued climate disruption."
India too figures in the list of culprits. The country's largest mining company and the world’s largest coal producer, Coal India Ltd, has been ranked 11th in its contribution to climate change. The toppers are Chevron, ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco, BP and Gazprom.
Greenpeace, among groups who staged a walkout in Warsaw, said CIL's ranking shows that India needs to clean up its act. “Unmindful of its vulnerability to climate change impacts, India is still opposing any binding commitments on developing countries at the Warsaw talks,” said Arpana Udupa, campaigner with Greenpeace India. According to the Global Carbon Project, India and China are among the world’s biggest contributors to fossil fuel emissions with India’s CO2 discharge increasing by 7.7% last year.