International Energy chief addresses big oil’s small carbon footprint

Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency (IEA). Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The world’s biggest publicly traded oil and natural gas companies account for less than 4% of the world’s energy-related carbon emissions, according to the head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol.

Why it matters: The datapoint underscores the large symbolic and political role companies like ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell fill in the world’s climate debate, despite accounting for a relatively small piece of the global carbon-emitting pie. Just as much attention should be paid to growth in coal electricity in Asia, Birol said in an interview Monday ahead of a big natural-gas conference kicking off Tuesday.