Fossil Fuel Companies and Climate Change

Lead PI:

Unit Affiliation: Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI)

Unknown start date - Ongoing
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change lay out a global consensus on the need to curb human-induced climate change and to achieve sustainable development. These concepts are linked. The urgency of addressing climate change is critical for global efforts to reduce poverty and advance sustainable development, but also climate-change mitigation must be pursued in a manner consistent with ending poverty and promoting economic development, respecting human rights, and ensuring social inclusion.

This has important implications for the world’s approach to natural resource investments and to global energy provision. Companies investing in the world’s hydrocarbons have a critical role to play, for moral, ethical and practical reasons.

OUTCOMES: CCSI and SDSN have published a briefing note summarizing the ways in which international oil and gas companies can help expand access to affordable and clean energy and take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. The briefing note outlines steps the oil and gas industry can take to prepare their businesses for the future, to strengthen efficiency and impact of current operations, and to leverage resources for broader partnerships and collaboration. The briefing note incorporates comments on the Consultative Draft published in January 2017.

CCSI has been exploring the strategies fossil fuel companies have embraced in order to address climate change concerns, and the strategies responsible investors could potentially request from fossil fuel companies in order to move towards a decarbonized economy. A timeline has been uploaded here (, which provides a non-exhaustive list of articles and news reports capturing activities that the largest non-state oil and gas companies (ExxonMobil, British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell and Total) have undertaken with respect to climate change and renewable energy investments since the 1970s. Apart from allowing users to compare actions among the selected oil & gas majors, it also provides an overview of how these activities fit in with the public debate around climate change. A description of the tool with salient findings can be found here ( This timeline is a living document and we welcome any contributions of news reports or feedback on how this tool could be improved to better serve the relevant stakeholders.

An op-ed on “The Responsible Investor’s Guide to Climate Change” can be also accessed here (, and materials presented at a July 2015 event on “A Safe Future for Fossil Fuel Investments in a Carbon-Constrained World?” can be accessed here (


UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network


paris agreement global energy sustainable development goals hydrocarbon climate change natural resources investment fossil fuels


Sustainable living