The cost of climate change must be met by the polluting industries

Press Release

The world’s top-emitting companies should be made accountable for their role in global warming, according to the "Carbon Majors Funding Loss and Damage" report, published today by The Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Climate Justice Programme.

The coal, oil and gas extracted by just 83 companies and industries worldwide, as well as the cement manufactured by another 7 companies are the cause of two thirds of all global warming emissions since industrialization. Today’s report calls on fossil fuel companies to start to take on their share of the burden and pay into a fund for the victims of global warming.

“The big oil and gas companies can no longer dodge their legal and moral responsibility to pay for climate change loss and damage their products have caused. They need to assume real responsibility in line with the polluter pays principle, firmly anchored in environmental law,” says Barbara Unmüßig, president of the Heinrich Boell Foundation. “Top international companies, such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, Saudi Aramco, BP, Gazprom and Shell have made huge profits with fossil fuels while the victims of climate change, often in the poorest regions of the world, are faced with ruin.”

The authors of the report, Julie-Anne Richards and Keely Boom from the Climate Justice Programme, propose a levy on fossil fuel extraction: "It could start at approximately $2 per tonne of CO2, which would raise $50 billion per year initially," says Julie-Anne Richards.

The actual levy would be calculated against a company's historic emissions and projected future extractions of coal, oil and gas. Over time it could be increased by 5 percent to 10 percent each year. The funds should flow into the ‘Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage’ agreed during international climate negotiations last year. From there the money will be allocated to the world's poorest communities and to those who have experienced the greatest impact of climate change.

“In the Philippines and elsewhere the lives and livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable communities are being torn apart by extreme climate change” said Naderev (Yeb) Saño from the Climate Change Commission in the Philippines where last year Typhoon Haiyan killed 6300 people, put 4 million on the street and caused $2 billion of damages.

"At the moment it’s the poorest who are bearing the cost of climate change. It’s time to turn that logic around,” says Saño.  “In international law we have the "do no harm" principle which is also applied in other areas, covering oil spills and nuclear accidents. It must now be extended to the loss and damage from man-made climate change," says Saño.

“We need to put our economy on the fast track to phase out fossil fuels and to safeguard our climate,” says Julie-Anne Richards. “This levy on fossil fuel extraction is an important step in that direction.”


Background and contacts:

Loss and Damage refers to the consequences of climate change that go beyond people’s capacity to cope and adapt. It ranges from extreme weather such as drought and floods, to slow-onset events, such as sea level rises, temperature rises, ocean acidification or glacier retreat, salinity, land and forest degradation, loss of bio-diversity and desertification. There are examples of global loss and damage in the report.

The Carbon Majors report was originally published in November 2013. This groundbreaking report was the product of 8 years of research by Rick Heede who analysed the historic emissions of 90 of the biggest oil, gas, coal and cement companies and showed that their products were responsible for 63 percent of all global emissions. The 3 biggest emitters were ChevronTexaco (3,51 percent of global emissions), ExxonMobil (3,21percent) and Saudi Aramco (3,17 percent). RWE is ranked 23rd (0,47 percent), RAG is ranked 62nd (0,08 percent) and HeidelbergCement is responsible for 0,04 percent of global emissions. You can find the full list in the report and on the Carbon Majors website.

Barbara Unmüßig is president of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung and leads the foundation’s international work in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East with a focus on international climate and resource policy, human rights, globalisation, gender policy and the promotion of democracy. She has founded many international networks and taken part in major global conferences and debates on environmental and international development issues.

Julie-Anne Richards is International Policy Manager at the Climate Justice Programme and co-author of this report. For more than a decade she has been part of campaigns fighting climate change, coordinating strategy and lobbying campaigns at Climate Action Network International and as advocacy coordinator at Oxfam Australia.

Naderev (Yeb) Saño is a member of the Climate Change Commission in the Philippines. He initiated the #fastfortheclimate campaign at the 2013 Warsaw climate talks and in a very moving speech there, he appealed to the world to “stop this madness”. For further quotes or interviews please contact:


Contacts at the Heinrich Böll Foundation:

Lili Fuhr
Head of Ecology and Sustainable Development  
Tel. +49 30-28534-304
Fax +49 151 4020 1775

Vera Lorenz
Press officer
Tel. +49 30-28534-217


Contacts at the Climate Justice Programme: 

Julie-Anne Richards
tel: +49 (0)151 2370 0629

Keely Boom
tel: +61 467 022 795