(Insider Monkey, 2.Jan.2021) — In this article we are going to list the 20 companies that are the biggest polluters in the world. Click to skip ahead and jump to the 10 companies that are the biggest polluters in the world. Look, I don’t think there are many educated people who do not know about climate change or don’t believe it’s real. It may have been easier to dismiss as hype a couple of decades or more ago, since the warnings were deemed as hyperbole and the effects weren’t being witnesses. All that has changed now. Every year is on average hotter than the last and this has been going on for a few years. 2020 is in fact tied to be the hottest year on record and the last five years have been the hottest since 1880, which is simply more undeniable evidence that global warming is real and it is happening right now. Weather patters have changed dramatically as well, with more extreme temperatures being witnessed in both summers and winters and the frequency and intensity of devastating storms increasing as well.

Now that the world has started to accept that climate change is real, the focus has increased on how to reverse it or at least limit the damage. Everywhere you go, you will see signs telling you to ditch plastic, reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding flights and taking trains, using paper straws rather than plastic, carpooling or taking public transport to reduce the damage being done to the world. Eat less meat and instead consume more vegetables while trying to conserve as much energy as possible. The message is loud and clear; it is on each and every one of us to reduce the impact of climate change and save the world from even more damage. But is it on each and every one of us? This is the message that major corporations want to send to lessen their own responsibilities and the impact of their policies and activities. Look, I’m not saying that the individual message is incorrect; with nearly 8 billion people in the world and growing consistently, whatever activities the mass adopts will definitely have a major impact, and following the above instructions will definitely help fight climate change. However, that will still have a limited impact and is often an attempt by corporations to shine the spotlight elsewhere.

At the end of the day, the power of consumers pales in comparison to that of the biggest corporations in the world. It is the responsibility of government to protect individuals and keep large corporations in check because such companies already have too much power and influence. However, in the case of environmental protections, despite stricter regulations at least in advanced countries, a lot more should be done to hold these countries accountable. Fines of millions of dollars or even tens of millions of dollars are nothing to companies which earn hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue and tens of billions in income. These companies are at the top of their games and belong to various industries but are generally in the mining sector or the oil and gas sector, which are two of the most lucrative sectors in the world and home to some of the biggest companies in the world as well. Do you want to know an astounding statistic that will put all the emphasis on individuals to fight climate change to shame? Since 1988, just 100 companies across the world have been responsible for a stunning 71% of all global emissions. Just 20 companies, both corporate as well as state owned, are responsible for more than a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. All of these 20 companies are in the fossil fuel industry which of course is no surprise since burning fossil fuels causes the greatest damage. This also shows how important the developments in the renewable energy sectors are, especially in the attempt to fight climate change and you can learn more about this if you head on over to the 10 biggest solar companies in the world and 10 largest wind energy companies in the world.

The worst part is, it’s not like these companies are unaware of the impact of their operations, yet they continue to expand their activities with little concern for the environment. Like I mentioned earlier, they’re happy to pay fines which aren’t even really material to them and simply continue harming the world unabated. The statistic used in our rankings are from a study carried out by the Climate Accountability Institute, and are based on the years 1965 to 2017, which was the year the report came out. Why is 1965 a starting point? Well, that’s the year when the impact of burning fossil fuels on the environment was well-known globally. It’s also no coincidence that one of the companies in our list is responsible for the worst oil spill in history and yet still continues to be ranked among the biggest and most powerful companies in the world. When you go through this list, you will realize that you recognize most if not all of the companies in our list. While some of these companies, and other major energy companies across the world are pivoting towards renewable energy resources. Whether these companies remain the biggest companies in the world a couple of decades from now, remains to be seen. Till then, let’s take a look at the companies most responsible for damaging our environment, starting with number 20:

20. Petrobras

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 8.68

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 0.64%

Brazil’s biggest oil company kicks off our list and while has had some successes such as rebuilding Brazil’s humpback whale population, it has also had more than a dozen oil spills in the past 5 decades.

19. BHP Billiton

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 9.8

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 0.72%

The biggest mining company in the world is also one of the biggest pollutants in BHP Billiten.

18. Sonatrach SPA

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 12.30

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 0.91%

The Algerian state owned company has faced serious corruption scandals in its history and has a poor environmental record to boot.

17. Total S.A.

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 12.35

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 0.91%

The French company is the biggest oil company in the country and has had to face fines due to oil spills, as well as a chemical plant explosion belonging to the country as well as being required to compensate victims of pollution from from the sinking of its ship in 2008.

16. Iraq National Oil Co.

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 12.60

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 0.93%

Founded in 1966 by the Iraqi government, i is the biggest oil company in Iraq and also the biggest polluter in the country.

15. Kuwait Petroleum Corp.

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 13.48

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 1%

Kuwait’s national oil company also makes our list of the companies that are the biggest polluters in the world.

14. Abu Dhabi National Oil Co.

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 13.84

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 1.01%

The company produces 3.1 million barrels of oil each day and is the biggest oil company of the UAE, whose wealth is based on its vast oil reserves.

13. ConocoPhillips

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 15.23

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 1.12%

It is a major part of the fossil fuel lobby in the US, and paid $11 million to settle a lawsuit which said hundreds of the company’s gas stations violated pollution laws.

12. Peabody Energy

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 15.39

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 1.14%

The largest private sector coal company in the world is Peabody, and has been accused over the years of lying to investors about the impact of climate change on the company and its financials.

11. China National Petroleum Corp

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 15.63

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 1.15%

The fourth biggest company in terms of revenue, the company has been responsible for several oil and gas spills through the decades.

10. Petróleos de Venezuela

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 15.75

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 1.16%

Owned by the government of Venezuela, the company is easily among the biggest pollutants in the world.

9. Pemex

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 22.65

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 1.67%

Pemex is a Mexican company, and was in 1979 responsible for one of the largest oil spills in history among numerous other environmental concerns.

8. Coal India

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 23.12

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 1.71%

The largest coal producing company in the world is coal India, which is also among the companies that are the biggest polluters in the world. The company was accused of operating more than 200 mines without obtaining environmental clearance.

7. Royal Dutch Shell

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 31.95

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 2.36%

Shell has operations in at least 70 countries across the world. The company has been sued by six NGO and more than 17,000 citizens for its poor environmental record, and has also been accused of greenwashing.

6. BP

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 34.02

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 2.51%

BP was responsible for the Deepwater Horizon Spill in 2010, which is said to be the worst oil spill in history, which ended up costing the company more than $65 billion in fines, penalties and cleanup costs, though again, for a company which earns more than $280 billion in revenue annually, that will be a hit but not big enough to be a major deterrent.

5. National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC)

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 35.66

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 2.63%

Iran doesn’t really have as stringent regulations or their reinforcement as other Western companies which is why this state owned company also has an extremely poor environmental record, which is typical of fossil fuel companies in Iran and other developing economies.

4. ExxonMobil

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 41.90

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 3.09%

The biggest direct descendant of Standard Oil, which was the biggest company in the world before being declared a monopoly and broken up, ExxonMobil’s revenue in 2019 was $264.9 billion. According to recent research it is one of the biggest pollutants in not just the US but the world, and has been considered a leader in funding climate change denial.

3. Gazprom AOA

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 43.23

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 3.19%

This energy company is one of the biggest in Russia, and rather than oil, focuses entirely on natural gas. By revenue, it is now the biggest company in Russia, which has many other major companies as well. In 2018, the company was responsible for around 12% of the total global natural gas production.

2. Chevron Corporation

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 43.35

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 3.2%

Chevron is one of the biggest oil companies in the world, and one of the most well known companies in the world, thanks to its petrol stations in more than 180 countries. It is involved from top to bottom in the oil and gas industry, and was founded 141 years ago. Its revenue in 2019 was around $146.5 billion.

1. Saudi Aramco

Total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017 (in billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent): 59.26

Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017: 4.38%

It is the most profitable company in the world and it also tops the list of the 10 companies that are the biggest polluters in the world. Saudi Aramco is the state owned oil company of one of the richest countries in the world due to its vast oil reserves in Saudi Arabia. In 2020, it has the sixth highest revenue in the world as well as the second highest market cap in the world, and is one of only two companies in the world right now to have a market cap greater than $3 trillion.

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By Ty Haqqi