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$674 billion annual spend on ‘unburnable’ fossil fuel assets signals failure to recognise huge financial...Read More
Carbon Tracker introduced the concept of stranded assets to get people thinking about the implications of not...Read More
Professor Lord Stern: “Smart investors can see that investing in companies that rely solely or heavily on constantly replenishing reserves of fossil fuels is becoming a very risky decision. The report raises serious questions as to the ability of the financial system to act on industry-wide long term risk, since currently the only measure of risk is performance against industry benchmarks".
Al Gore and David Blood, Generation Investment : "Stranded assets are those that would be unprofitable under certain scenarios, which include the enforcement of a fair price on carbon and water, or improved regulation of labour standards in emerging economies. Only limited work has been done to date to quantify the potential impact these sorts of changes would have on the value of companies, but one such piece by the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI) provides new insights into the likely impact of stranded assets”.
This new research from Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE calls for regulators, governments and investors to re-evaluate energy business models against carbon budgets, to prevent a $6 trillion carbon bubble in the next decade.
Unburnable carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets has revealed that fossil fuel reserves already far exceed the carbon budget to avoid global warming of 2°C, but in spite of this, spent $674billion last year to find and develop new potentially stranded assets.
The carbon budget deficit
Between 60-80% of coal, oil and gas reserves of publicly listed companies are ‘unburnable’ if the world is to have a chance of not exceeding global warming of 2°C
- The total coal, oil and gas reserves listed on the world’s stock exchanges equals 762GtCO2 – approximately a quarter of the world’s total reserves;
- If you apply the same proportion to the global carbon budgets to have an 80% chance of limiting global warming to 2°C, their allocation of the carbon budget is between 125GtCO2 and 225GtCO2, illustrating the scale of ‘unburnable carbon’;
- This diagram shows that even a less ambitious target of 3°C would still apply significant constraints on our use of fossil fuel reserves;
- However companies in the coal, oil and gas sectors are seeking to develop further resources which could double the level of potential CO2 on the world’s stock exchanges to 1,541billion tonnes;
Even if CCS is deployed in line with an idealised scenario by 2050, this would only extend fossil fuel carbon budgets by 125GtCO2
- This is equivalent to 12-14% (50-80% probability) of carbon budgets to limit global warming to 2°C and to only 4% of total global reserves;
- As the idealised scenario below illustrates, CCS will only come online at scale from 2030 onwards, by which point the carbon budget may have been used up.
Company valuation and credit ratings methodologies do not typically inform investors about their exposure to these stranded assets, despite these reserves supporting share value of $4 trillion in 2012 and servicing $1.27 trillion in outstanding corporate debt over the same period. We need to challenge these methodologies
- To avoid systemic risks such as climate change, investors will have to demand to go beyond the traditional definition of risk as underperforming the benchmark
- The rebalancing and redistribution of funds if required to protect shareholders’ interest and prevent wasted capital, the scale of which can be seen below. Greater understanding of the uncertainty and risk around fossil fuels can help the redistribution of these funds towards alternatives more attractive.
Therefore, this study makes a number of recommendations for action by governments, financial intermediaries, institutional investors and citizens to manage this risk. Click below to read them.