The failure of more than half of the world’s top fossil fuel producers to meet climate targets has been revealed by a study conducted by an international team led by The University of Queensland. By analyzing publicly available data, researchers from UQ, Oxford University, Princeton University, and the Climate Accountability Institute developed an assessment methodology to track the companies’ compliance with the Paris Agreement. This study, published in Nature Climate Change, highlights the urgent need for these companies to ramp up their decarbonization plans in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
According to Dr. Saphira Rekker from UQ Business School, the study found that more than 60% of the top 142 oil, gas, and coal companies were not aligned with the targets set by the Paris Agreement. The researchers assessed the companies’ outputs since 2014 and projected their production levels until 2050. The results showed that these companies were on track to exceed Paris compliant production of oil by 42%, gas by 53%, and coal by 68%. This indicates a significant gap between their current production plans and the targets necessary to mitigate climate change effectively.
Dr. Chris Greig from Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment pointed out that while many companies announce climate targets, their actions often do not align with their commitments. It is essential for companies to have credible plans to deliver on their climate goals, but the study shows that several companies are falling short of their pledges. This raises concerns about the authenticity of their commitments and the need for stronger accountability measures.
A Robust Methodology
The researchers’ new methodology builds on their previous work, which assessed the Paris compliance of utility and cement companies using a science-based test. The fossil fuel method developed in this study makes it harder for companies to engage in greenwashing tactics. Dr. Matthew Ives from the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Martin School, University of Oxford, explained that previous approaches relied on difficult-to-source and potentially misleading data, or allowed companies to choose their own starting point for tracking progress. The new methodology provides a more straightforward and reliable way of evaluating fossil fuel companies for their Paris compliance.
Dr. Rekker emphasized that there are multiple pathways to Paris compliance, and the research aims to provide companies and sectors with insights into the transition and reputational risks they may face. The tool developed by the researchers not only helps stakeholders understand the climate targets set by companies but also highlights the underlying assumptions, such as the need for technologies like carbon capture and storage. The goal is not to lecture or dictate the right and wrong ways to operate but to facilitate informed decision-making and promote transparency.
The study serves as a wake-up call for fossil fuel producers and underscores the urgency of decarbonization efforts. With the dire consequences of climate change becoming increasingly apparent, it is crucial for these companies to align their production plans with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The researchers’ methodology provides a robust framework for assessing compliance, ensuring that companies cannot engage in greenwashing or manipulate their emissions data. It is now up to companies, policymakers, shareholders, and the public to utilize this tool and take decisive action towards a more sustainable future.
Visit the researchers’ Are You Paris Compliant website to access the company ratings and assessment tools, empowering individuals to hold companies accountable for their climate targets.