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Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010

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  • Climate Accountability Institute

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This paper presents a quantitative analysis of the historic fossil fuel and cement production records of the 50 leading investor-owned, 31 state-owned, and 9 nation-state producers of oil, natural gas, coal, and cement from as early as 1854 to 2010. This analysis traces emissions totaling 914 GtCO2e—63 % of cumulative worldwide emissions of industrial CO2 and methane between 1751 and 2010—to the 90 “carbon major” entities based on the carbon content of marketed hydrocarbon fuels (subtracting for non-energy uses), process CO2 from cement manufacture, CO2 from flaring, venting, and own fuel use, and fugitive or vented methane. Cumulatively, emissions of 315 GtCO2e have been traced to investor-owned entities, 288 GtCO2e to state-owned enterprises, and 312 GtCO2e to nation-states. Of these emissions, half has been emitted since 1986. The carbon major entities possess fossil fuel reserves that will, if produced and emitted, intensify anthropogenic climate change. The purpose of the analysis is to understand the historic emissions as a factual matter, and to invite consideration of their possible relevance to public policy.
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... As Heede (2014) points out, nearly two-thirds of the worldwide emissions of industrial methane and carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) from 1751 to 2010 were emitted by not more than 90 companies. CSEAP is concerned with the linguistic repertoires of these large and powerful companies when they make claims to responsibility and sustainability. ...
... Businesses are, in turn, defined by the structures of the capitalist systems in which they operate. This is particularly the case in the oil and gas industry where selling unsustainability is at the core of the business model (Heede, 2014). Within this industry we can, according to the CSEAP view, not expect managers to make changes that will dramatically affect their bottom line and should be highly sceptical of any claims that they are doing do . ...
Purpose This article explores and contrasts the views of two influential research projects within the social and environmental accounting space. Both projects advocate for sustainability. The first here referred to as the Critical Social and Environmental Accounting Project (CSEAP), was developed and championed by Rob Gray and calls for immediate radical structural change. The second one is called the Pragmatic Sustainability Management Accounting Project (PSMAP), championed by Stefan Schaltegger, and advocates for an entrepreneurial process of creating radical solutions in joint stakeholder collaboration over time. Design/methodology/approach The paper is the culmination of a decade-long debate between Gray and Schaltegger as advocates of CSEAP and PSMAP, respectively. Specifically, the paper explores the differences and agreements between CSEAP and PSMAP on whether and how companies should pursue sustainability and the role of accounting in these efforts. The paper focusses on critical issues that exemplify the tension in their views: general goals, the role of structure and agency and how to creating change and transformation. Findings The article contrasts CSEAP's uncompromising antagonising approach to accountability and fundamental systemic change with PSMAP's pragmatic approach to sustainability accounting with its management and entrepreneurship-orientated approach to change and unwavering support for transformative managers on the front lines. Despite their apparent differences, the paper also outlines areas of agreement between these two positions and how accounting and sustainability can move forward. Research limitations/implications The debate tries to reconcile language and conceptional differences in the social and environmental accounting (SEA) and sustainability management accounting (SMA) communities to reduce confusion in the research space over what sustainability is for organisations and what role accounting plays in this. The authors hope that the tension between the different positions outlined in this paper generates new insights and positions on the topic. Practical implications While the two views explored in this paper are primarily incompatible, each generates implications for practice, research and education. Debates like this are crucial to moving from discursive disagreement to creating a tolerant and robust foundation for moving forward and achieving much-needed sustainable transitions in the economy and society. Originality/value The authors offer shared understandings, points of continuing disagreement and alternative views on the nature of sustainability. The debate forges a bridge of understanding where both sides can learn from each other.
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