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Evaluating fossil fuel companies’ alignment with 1.5 °C climate pathways


Limiting the global average temperature rise to 1.5 °C requires an unprecedented reduction in fossil fuel use, along with large-scale deployment of CO2 capture and storage. To track the fossil fuel industry and companies against 1.5 °C-consistent pathways, we propose a new methodology that complements existing methodologies in four main ways: (1) it uses publicly available data; (2) focuses on absolute fossil fuel production (as a proxy for embedded emissions) rather than carbon intensities associated with their use; (3) includes coal that is commonly excluded; and (4) is applicable regardless of whether the company has set a target. By applying this method, we evaluated the 142 largest producers of coal, oil and gas against three 1.5 °C IPCC Shared Socio-economic Pathways (SSP1-1.9, SSP2-1.9 and SSP5-1.9) from 2014 and the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Emissions pathway from 2020. Between 2014 and 2020, 64%, 63% and 70% of coal, oil and gas companies, respectively, produced more than their production budgets under the IPCC’s middle-of-the-road (SSP2-1.9) Paris Agreement-compliant scenario. In addition, if the 142 companies we examined continued their average growth rate trends from 2010 to 2018, they would produce up to 68%, 42% and 53% more than their cumulative production budgets for coal, oil and gas, respectively, by 2050. By providing such simple metrics, based on publicly available data, our method offers stakeholders a way of easily tracking and comparing the performance of different fossil fuel producers against climate goals.

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Fig. 1: Alignment of sample companies BHP and Glencore with 1.5 °C climate pathways since 2014 in terms of cumulative and annual production.
Fig. 2: Production overshoot in 2020 and estimated year to finish total production budget (2015–2050) compared to SSP2–1.9.
Fig. 3: Global fossil fuel companies’ collective production trajectories.

Data availability

All data that support the findings in this study are publicly available through UQ eSpace at data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

All code that support the findings in this study are available through UQ eSpace at


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Author information

Authors and Affiliations



S.R., B.W., G.C., C.G. and R.H. conceptualized the project. S.R., B.W., C.G., M.C.I., R.H. and G.C. developed the methodology. S.R., C.G., G.C. and M.C.I. performed visualization. S.R., B.W. and C.G. acquired funding. S.R., B.W., C.G., M.C.I., R.H. and G.C. wrote the original draft.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Guangwu Chen.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review

Peer review information

Nature Climate Change thanks Maida Hadziosmanovic and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Historical contribution (1980-2018), reserves (in 2017) and production (2010-2014) levels as a percentage of the world for the largest ten oil and natural gas companies (based on reserves).

This figure demonstrates the strength and reliability of the allocation method used. The average production rate from 2010 to 2018, as proposed in this study, offers several benefits in terms of accurately representing current technologies and geopolitical factors. This stands in contrast to the historical contribution and reserve allocation methods.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Production overshoot in 2020 for our sample of 74 coal companies (panel a), 67 oil companies (panel b), and 70 gas companies (panel c) relative to MESSAGE GLOBIOM SSP2-RCP1.9 consistent production pathways.

This figure shows the performance since the base year (cumulative production since the base year 2014 relative to MESSAGE GLOBIOM SSP2-consistent production pathway). Fossil fuel producers with a value of less (more) than one produced less (more) than the SSP2-RCP1.9 consistent production pathway in 2020. Companies are listed in order of magnitude in the graph.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Estimated year to finish total SSP2-RCP1.9 consistent production budget (until 2050) for our sample of 74 coal companies (panel a), 67 oil companies (panel b), and 70 gas companies (panel c) assuming production growth at average 2010-2018 levels.

This figure shows the year in which a company’s total MESSAGE GLOBIOM SSP2-consistent production budget (until 2050) will be fully produced if production continues at 2010-2018 growth levels. Company data is projected from 2020 onwards (mergers and acquisitions after are not accounted for). Finishing the production budget before 2050 indicates a misalignment with the SSP2 pathway. The earlier the budget is fully produced, the less consistent the company is with the SSP2 pathway. Companies are listed in order of magnitude in the graph.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Fig. 1, Tables 1–7 and Discussion.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

Company production budgets and statistical source data.

Source Data Fig. 2

Metric 1 and 2 of fossil fuel companies.

Source Data Fig. 3

Total production budgets.

Source Data Table 3

Carbon dioxide removal.

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Rekker, S., Chen, G., Heede, R. et al. Evaluating fossil fuel companies’ alignment with 1.5 °C climate pathways. Nat. Clim. Chang. 13, 927–934 (2023).

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