Mark Carney: most fossil fuel reserves can't be burned

Jessica Shankleman for BusinessGreen, part of the Guardian Environment Network,, 13 October 2014

The governor of the Bank of England has reiterated his warning that fossil fuel companies cannot burn all of their reserves if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change, and called for investors to consider the long-term impacts of their decisions.

According to reports, Carney told a World Bank seminar on integrated reporting on Friday that the “vast majority of reserves are unburnable” if global temperature rises are to be limited to below 2C.

Carney is the latest high profile figure to lend his weight to the “carbon bubble” theory, which warns that fossil fuel assets, such as coal, oil and gas, could be significantly devalued if a global deal to tackle climate change is reached.

The movement has gained traction in recent weeks, with the World Bank leading an initiative with 73 national governments, 11 regional governments, and more than 1,000 businesses and investors to build support for a global price on carbon emissions during the United Nations climate summit in New York.

At the same time, the Global Invest-Divest Coalition of more than 160 institutions and local governments, as well as more than 500 individuals, together pledged to divest $50bn from fossil fuel investments within the next three to five years and reinvest in new clean energy sources.

According to Emerging Markets, Carney encouraged more businesses to include environmental impacts and investments alongside their financial annual reports, arguing the move towards integrated reporting is important to help “influence the allocation of capital and credit today”.

Carney issued a stark warning over the lack of long-term thinking by governments and businesses, warning that a so-called “tragedy of horizons” could lead to market failure.

The seminar was held on Friday during the World Bank’s annual informal climate ministerial on carbon pricing, which for the first time was also attended by representatives from the corporate community, including Alstom, the Swedish pension fund AP4, Deutsche Bank and the French pension fund ERAFP.

Speaking after the event, Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Group’s vice president and special envoy for climate change, said businesses had made a welcome contribution to the discussions.

She said businesses had called for better communication between different carbon trading platforms and carbon taxes around the world, while governments had been clear that any carbon pricing mechanism should not penalise the poor.

“This has to be done in order to drive investment in clean energy by using the revenues from the tax,” she said. “It’s a necessary step but I think the conclusion of today is this is something that we really can drive forward in coalition between the public and private sector and there is a unanimous call for the World Bank to lead that effort.”