world flags on soccer ball in goal

The World Cup of Oil and Gas Emissions

If World Cup countries were going head-to-head based on their oil and gas emissions, who would win with the lowest climate footprint?

Sports fans around the globe have been gripped by the FIFA Men’s World Cup, watching their nations’ football (or as we say in the United States, soccer) teams face off in Qatar with great enthusiasm. Here at RMI, we too are following the matches closely. The Climate Intelligence Program is particularly excited about the tournament because there is one big thing that sports fans and climate analysts have in common: they love data!

While football fans may debate the skillful strengths of their team against the competition, we can leverage the power of transparent emissions data to assess how the participating nations stack up in their oil and gas climate footprint. This led us to ask the question, “If World Cup countries were going head-to-head based on their oil and gas emissions, who would win with the lowest climate footprint?”

Introducing the First Oil and Gas World Cup Bracket

To answer this question, we set up a bracket similar to the real World Cup tournament bracket with 32 starting teams, where the top two teams (the ones with lowest emissions intensity) in each group “advance.”

This football-inspired thought experiment required some modifications to the FIFA qualification process. For fairer comparison, we removed any country competing in this year’s tournament that produces less than 0.02% of global oil and gas (like Japan, Switzerland, and Costa Rica), and substituted larger producing countries (like Iraq, Norway, and China).

Countries were assessed head-to-head based on the emissions intensity of their oil and gas operations — including production, processing, and transport — based on a CO2e 20-year global warming potential. Emissions intensity offers a good metric for direct comparison because it levels the playing field by showing whose oils and gases are “dirtier,” regardless of volume produced.

This assessment was made possible thanks to two climate intelligence databases: the Oil Climate Index plus Gas and Climate TRACE, which recently released its updated country emissions inventories during COP27. Outside of this whimsical application of the data, there are real-world climate implications of differentiating oil and gas resources by their emissions intensity. Our hope is that by pulling back the veil on the climate impacts of every oil and gas resource globally with these tools, policymakers and markets alike can take near-term steps to prioritize lower-emitting sources as we all strive to achieve a 1.5°C future.

Join us in watching the rest of the World Cup tournament and see how our bracket stacks up to real results!