In an alarming update from the 2023 Global Oil & Gas Exit List (GOGEL), a public database tracking oil and gas companies, it's clear that the industry is not aligning with the urgent needs of our climate crisis. This list, compiled by a German environmental organisation, Urgewald, and over 50 partners, covers 1,623 companies involved in various sectors of oil and gas production, accounting for a staggering 95% of global production.
Despite the pressing need to reduce fossil fuel dependency, a shocking 96% of the 700 upstream companies (what is an 'upstream company'?) on GOGEL continue to explore or develop new oil and gas fields. Furthermore, over 1,000 companies are planning new LNG terminals, pipelines, or gas-fired power plants. Nils Bartsch, Head of Oil & Gas Research at Urgewald, expresses deep concern over these expansion plans, which he describes as a "bridge to climate chaos."
In defiance of the International Energy Agency's 1.5 °C roadmap, which calls for an end to new oil and gas exploration, the industry's annual capital expenditure on exploration has risen by over 30% since 2021. This expenditure, totaling $170.4 billion in the past three years, goes against the urgent need to transition to cleaner energy sources.
The expansion doesn't stop there. GOGEL reveals plans by 539 companies to produce 230 billion barrels of oil equivalent of untapped resources, a move that significantly endangers the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 °C. Even if coal extraction ceased immediately, we would still need to leave a substantial portion of these oil and gas resources unexploited.
Of particular concern is the role of major companies like Saudi Aramco, QatarEnergy, and TotalEnergies, which lead in both exploration and expansion in new regions, often called 'frontier countries'. These countries, like South Africa and Mozambique, have little to no existing oil and gas production, yet are being pushed towards fossil fuel dependency.
Experts like Leanne Govindsamy from the Centre for Environmental Rights are calling for a just transition to renewable energy, highlighting the infeasibility and environmental impact of fossil fuels like gas. The current trajectory of these oil and gas giants not only threatens the global climate but also risks locking developing countries into a future dependent on declining and damaging fossil fuels.