Curbing China’s output of greenhouse gas will do more than any anything else to decide the fate of the planet.

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  • The world’s top five polluters were responsible for 60% of global emissions in 2019.
    • China alone generated about the same amount of CO2 as the next four countries combined. And its carbon output is still rising every year.
  • China’s emissions are so vast that its biggest companies, few of which are household names, create more pollution than entire nations.
    • China Baowu, the world’s top steelmaker, put more CO2 into the atmosphere last year than Pakistan.
  • Take state-owned oil giant Sinopec Group. One of its subsidiaries, China Petroleum & Chemical, contributed more to global warming last year than Canada, itself an emissions heavyweight with the 11th-most CO2 among nations.
  • China’s biggest companies have more sway over warming temperatures than most countries. Yet little is known about the emissions from these state-run giants.

Curbing China’s output of greenhouse gas will do more than almost anything else at this point to decide the fate of the planet. That primacy comes from being, by far, the world’s top source of new emissions. But few outside of the Chinese government can examine the true drivers of this crucial planet-warming pollution: dozens of gigantic state-run companies.

As world leaders and diplomats head to Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss how to keep rising temperatures in check, understanding the role of China’s industrial titans has never been more important. These companies won’t be party to United Nations-backed negotiations. Yet no deal will be effective in practice without their strong cooperation.

China’s companies drove the country’s greenhouse gas emissions above those of all developed nations combined in 2019, according to a study by Rhodium Group. To deliver on President Xi Jinping’s promise to zero out emissions by 2060, these same companies will have to shift away from dirty energy, embrace new technologies and change the way they operate.

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