Fossil fuel companies have been lying about their greenhouse gas emissions, new data from satellite monitoring has shown. Emissions from oil and gas facilities around the world are three times higher than what companies claim, with half of the 50 largest sources of emissions in the world being oil and gas fields and production facilities.
Climate Trace, an initiative to measure at the source the real levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, published a report showing companies are underreporting their emissions. Oil and gas production can leak methane, a greenhouse gas up to 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat that has been rising fast.
Al Gore, former vice-president of the US and a founding member of the Climate Trace coalition, said the “shocking” under-reporting of emissions is a big problem in trying to tackle the climate crisis. This new data can help countries and companies to “act decisively” and prioritize efforts to achieve “deep cuts” in emissions, Gore added.
The cheating fossil fuel sector
The data set includes emissions figures from over 72,000 individual sources worldwide, including power plants, steel mills, urban road networks and oil and gas fields. It represents the top known sources of emissions in transportation, production of steel, cement and aluminum, oil and gas production and refinement, and the power sector.
Unveiled at the COP27 climate summit, where countries are trying to find new ways of tackling the climate crisis, this new data provides a full view of annual greenhouse gas emissions since 2015 – the year of the Paris Agreement. The top 500 individual sources of emissions represent less than 1% of the total facilities incorporated in the dataset.
“We’ve been able to estimate the emissions of nearly all the largest emitting facilities on the planet,” said Gavin McCormick, founder and executive director of Climate TRACE. “I’ve been thrilled to hear from climate negotiators, corporate sustainability teams, investors and activists that this information is already a game changer.”
The dataset shows emissions from oil and gas production, transport, and refining had been significantly underestimated, likely because of limited reporting requirements and underestimates of methane emissions from intentional. In fact, emissions from fossil fuel production were found to be three times higher than self-reported data.
The fossil fuel lobby at COP
The number of delegates at the COP27 climate summit with ties to the fossil fuel sector rose 25% from the last conference, according to an analysis by the campaign group Global Witness with other organizations. There are over 600 people at the talks in Egypt linked to fossil fuels – more than the combined delegations from the 10 countries most impacted by climate change.
Global Witness counted the number of people registered at COP who were either directly affiliated with fossil fuel companies or attending as members of country delegations that act on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. While at COP26 there were 503 delegates connected to fossil fuels, the number rose to 636 in this year’s climate talks.
There are over 33,000 registered participants attending COP27 in Egypt, according to recently released numbers from the UN. The biggest single delegation is from the United Arab Emirates, which will host COP28 next year. They have over 1,000 people on the ground in Egypt, up from just 170 last year. Brazil ranks second, with a delegation of over 500 people.
“We’re on a carousel of madness here rather than climate action. The fossil fuel industry, their agenda, it’s deadly. Their motivation is profit and greed. They’re not serious about climate action. They never have been and they never will,” Rachel Rose Jackson, from Corporate Accountability, one of the group of campaigners who released the data, said in a statement.
Read more stories from our on-the-ground reporting at COP27 in Egypt.
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