A new study has found that the world’s top fossil fuel companies owe at least $209bn in annual climate reparations to compensate communities most damaged by their polluting business and decades of lies.
According to the study which was published in the journal One Earth, BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Total, Saudi Arabia’s state oil company and Chevron are among the largest 21 polluters responsible for $5.4tn (£4.3tn) in drought, wildfires, sea level rise and melting glaciers among other climate catastrophes expected between 2025 and 2050.
This is said to be the first time that researchers have quantified the economic burden caused by individual companies that have extracted – and continue to extract – wealth from planet heating fossil fuels.
Amid growing debate about who should bear the economic cost of the climate crisis, the paper, titled Time to Pay the Piper, presents a moral case for the carbon corporations most responsible for the climate breakdown to use some of their “tainted wealth” to compensate victims.
The study considers this to be a substantial yet conservative price tag, as the methodology excludes the economic value of lost lives and livelihoods, species extinction and other biodiversity loss, as well as other wellbeing components not captured in GDP.
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“This is only the tip of the iceberg of long-term climate damages, mitigation, and adaptation costs,” said co-author Richard Heede, co-founder and director of Climate Accountability Institute.
According to reports, the study builds on the carbon majors database, which records the emissions of individual oil, gas and coal companies since 1988 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established and industry claims of scientific uncertainty about the climate crisis became untenable.
The creation of an evidence-based “polluter pays” price tag has been welcomed as an important step towards achieving climate justice for communities and countries which have contributed the least, but are losing the most as the climate breaks down.
“As increasingly devastating storms, floods and sea level rise bring misery to millions of people every day, questions around reparations have come to the fore,” said Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network International, a group of almost 2,000 civil society groups across 130 countries.
Story was adapted from the Guardian.