80 Percent of Global CO2 Emissions Come From Just 57 Companies, Report Shows

Many of these companies increased their fossil fuel production after the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016

In black and white, power lines cross the foreground as a power plant billows smoke behind it.
A coal power plant in Germany. x1klima via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED

A new analysis released last week by the international nonprofit InfluenceMap reveals an overwhelmingly unequal share of fossil fuel pollution worldwide. From 2016 to 2022, 80 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions were produced by just 57 companies.

Shared in the think tank’s Carbon Majors Database, which is produced by some of the world’s top climate researchers, the report names the leading state-controlled entities and investor-owned companies driving the climate crisis and global warming.

The production of coal, oil, natural gas and cement combined for around 30,000 megatons of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide in 2022 alone. Historically, of the world’s 122 top polluters, according to the Guardian, 65 percent of state-owned companies and more than half of private-sector companies had come to expand their output.

“It is morally reprehensible for companies to continue expanding exploration and production of carbon fuels in the face of knowledge now for decades that their products are harmful,” Richard Heede, who established the Carbon Majors Database 11 years ago, tells the Guardian’s Jonathan Watts. “Don’t blame consumers who have been forced to be reliant on oil and gas due to government capture by oil and gas companies.”
A chart depicting how coal, oil, natural gas and cement production account for the vast majority of historic carbon emissions.
The production of coal, oil, natural gas and cement continue to make up an overwhelming share of the world's carbon dioxide emissions InfluenceMap

Since the 2015 adoption of the Paris Agreement, which established an internationally agreed-upon 1.5 degree Celsius global warming limit by 2100, the world’s No. 1 source of carbon emissions has been China’s state-run coal production. From 2016 to 2022, that accounted for 25.79 percent of global carbon emissions, while historically, from 1854 to 2022, it accounted for about 14 percent of all carbon emissions—still the highest in the world.

State-owned fossil fuel production companies made up the next largest share since 2016, combining to spread more than 30,000 megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in that span. Saudi Aramco accounted for more than 4 percent of global emissions, Gazprom clocked over 3 percent and Coal India accounted for roughly 3 percent.

Among investor-owned companies, oil producers Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP and Chevron produced the most carbon emissions historically, combining for more than 10 percent since 1854. They also accounted for the most since the Paris Agreement was signed—combining for roughly 5 percent since 2016.

A chart showing how shareholder-owned companies, state-owned entities, and nation-states make up global carbon emissions
In the past two decades, carbon emissions from nation-states have surpassed those of state-owned entities and private companies. InfluenceMap

The report also shows these entities moving in a startling direction—since the Paris Agreement was signed, 58 of the top 100 carbon-producing companies have actually increased their production. This trend was most visible in Asia, where 13 of 15 companies ramped up their operations, though the same dissonance was seen in the Middle East (7 of 10), Europe (13 of 23), South America (3 of 5), Australia (3 of 4), and Africa (3 of 6). In North America, 16 of 37 companies, 43 percent, increased their emissions since 2016.

Of the world’s top fossil fuels, the report found the mining and usage of coal shifted the most after 2016. Not only did its global consumption increase by 8 percent, reaching all-time highs in 2022, but its production also shifted significantly from private companies to state-controlled entities and nation-states—a trend that signals a willful disregard for the Paris Agreement.

“These companies have made billions of dollars in profits while denying the problem and delaying and obstructing climate policy,” Tzeporah Berman, the international program director at Stand.earth and chair of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, said in the report. “These findings emphasize that, more than ever, we need our governments to stand up to these companies, and we need new international cooperation through a Fossil Fuel Treaty to end the expansion of fossil fuels and ensure a truly just transition.”

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.