January 23, 2014

Time for the carbon bubble to take center stage at the World Economic Forum

Contact: Hoda Baraka Global Communications Manager +201001-840990 [email protected]

23 January, 2014 – As the ‘Climate Day’ is set to take place today at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, more than ever the world’s political, business, and financial elite need to heed to the reality of the carbon bubble and commit to disinvest from fossil fuels, according to the international climate campaign 350.org.

“I think 2014 is the year that the discussion about a carbon bubble will go mainstream,” said Jamie Henn, Strategy Director for 350.org, which is helping coordinate the growing fossil fuel divestment movement. “The fossil fuel divestment movement is spreading like wildfire at universities and in cities around the world. The financial community cannot continue to ignore its role in fueling the climate crisis.”

The carbon bubble refers to the idea that as governments regulate emissions in order to meet their stated goal of limiting global warming below 2°C, much of the known coal, oil and gas reserves of the fossil fuel industry will need to remain unburned, turning them into stranded assets and creating a large financial risk for the companies that own them. Scientists say to meet the 2°C target we can only emit roughly 565 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But the fossil fuel industry has 2795 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide in their reserves, nearly five times too much.[1]

Though the organizers of the WEF have set the agenda to encourage dialogue on the global threat posed by climate change, it is unclear whether the very real threat of a carbon bubble is sinking in with investors.

“Governments, businesses, and a civil society have all come under pressure to take steps to address climate change. Up until now, the financial community has largely been left off the hook. That needs to change,” said Henn.

In order to move forward and lay the groundwork for strong climate action in the lead up to the 2015 international climate negotiations, attendees at the WEF need to discuss divestment from the fossil fuel industry and investing instead in the renewable sector. Investing in emerging clean energy sectors, which are part of the necessary climate solution, represents a huge opportunity for asset managers.

Since 350.org launched the divestment campaign in the autumn of 2012 the movement has spread to over 500 universities, cities, states and religious institutions across the United States, Australia, Canada and Europe, with dozens of institutions already committing to divest. A recent study by the University of Oxford included that the fossil fuel divestment movement is growing faster than any previous divestment campaign and that, “The outcome of the stigmatisation process, which the fossil fuel divestment campaign has now triggered, poses the most far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies and the vast energy value chain.”[3]

The campaign is beginning to make an impact in the financial community, as well. Most recently 70 global investors, managing over $3 trillion of assets, have demanded the oil, gas and coal companies asses the risks that climate change poses to their business plans. Earlier this month during a summit of financial leaders held at the United Nations, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), joined the voices calling on investors to get out of high carbon assets.[4]

This WEF is a chance to move beyond the business-as-usual narrative and address climate change as the systemic, urgent threat that it is setting us on a path to success at COP 21 in Paris in 2015; anything less will certainly be a failure of leadership — both political and corporate.


[1] According to report entitled: Unburnable carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets by Carbon Tracker Initiative and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE

[2] Additional information on 350.org ’Fossil Free’ divestment campaign can be found here: https://gofossilfree.org/

[3] Report entitled: Stranded assets and the fossil fuel divestment campaign: what does divestment mean for the valuation of fossil fuel assets?

[4] BBC World Get your cash out of fossil fuel backed funds says UN climate chief