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iN Focus: cop21

The artcle was the “most poetc, brilliant piece of writng I’ve ever words with Shell, BP and Exxon, but the ruinous state of the US
read,” says Campanale. coal industry. Totering afer years of tougher sulphur and nitrogen
regulatons, coal companies startng going under.
McKibben used it to unleash a new wave of actvism at universites
across the US in late 2012, encouraging students to demand their Big names like James River Coal and Patriot Coal Corporaton fled for
colleges ditch holdings in fossil fuels. By the end of 2013, there were bankruptcy, two of 26 that had gone under in recent years.
400 campaigns underway across the world.
“What happened to US coal was the eye opener,” said Craig
By September 2014, the heirs of the Rockefeller oil fortune had Mackenzie, senior investment strategist at Aberdeen Asset
ofered support to a $50 billion divestment drive. Management. “Suddenly you realised that the general constraint on
fossil fuels could be much closer than we thought.”
By December 2014, the UK’s energy chief Ed Davey was in on the act,
warning pension funds with high carbon assets were at risk. Shell At the same tme, oil prices were startng to nosedive from around
UK’s CEO complained about his comments. $110 a barrel to their current level of just under $50, placing high
cost plays like the Arctc and tar sands under pressure.
It was too late – the genie had been unleashed.
Even media groups frequently hostle to green regulatons started to
As of August 2015, 349 insttutons including the Norwegian
Sovereign Wealth Fund, Stanford University and the Church of pile in against high carbon investments.
England have announced plans to ditch some or all of their fossil In the FT, Martn Wolf asked if high levels of oil, gas and coal
fuel holdings. investments could be a “disastrous waste of resources that could be
beter deployed elsewhere”.
World Bank chief Jim Kim and the UN climate body have thrown their
weight behind the movement. In the Daily Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard said fossil fuel
companies were throwing “good money afer bad” and were
Perhaps of equal signifcance, the CTI data encouraged the Guardian “courtng fate” by dismissing the prospects of a global climate deal
newspaper to launch its ‘Keep it in the ground’ campaign in March in 2015. The Economist labelled the debate the “elephant in the
this year.
“There are trillions of dollars worth of fossil fuels currently enter Carney
underground which, for our safety, simply cannot be extracted and
burned. All else is up for debate: that much is not,” wrote editor What happened next stunned everyone – not least the CTI team. The
Bank of England and then the Basel-based Financial Stability Board
Alan Rusbridger.
(FSB) signalled their fears that stranded assets could be more than a
Faced with an innovatve atack on their business model, oil theory.
companies got on the defensive.
Climate change was one of the “top risks” facing the fnancial
War on bubble services industry, according to Bank of England governor Mark
In March 2014 Exxon wrote to shareholders denying there was any Carney, who commissioned the One Bank Research Agenda in
risk to its operatons. “We are confdent that none of our hydrocarbon February and faced down critcism from leading UK climate sceptcs
reserves are now or will become stranded,” the company said. Shell for doing so.
followed two months later with a similar note reassuring investors, And the G20 group of natons seemed equally concerned, asking the
stressing transformaton “will inevitably take decades”.
FSB to present its fndings at this year’s summit in Turkey, which takes
A July 2014 investgaton by the Carbon Brief saw BP, Conoco Philips place two weeks before nearly 200 countries meet in Paris to sign of
and Statoil line up to dismiss the threat of a carbon bubble, while a long-planned UN climate deal.
US consultancy IHS ran a specially commissioned “defatng the The United States, China, India, Russia, Australia, and Saudi Arabia
bubble” series.
have all agreed to carry out internal stress tests, evaluatng what the
CTI chief executve Anthony Hobley was delighted with their impact of new climate laws would be on the value of their fossil fuel
response, even if he feels they failed to ofer satsfactory answers to reserves.
the core analysis. “It was huge. Whatever they say about you, they Abigail Herron, head of responsible investment engagement at
have to take you seriously, which shows your underlying analysis is Aviva Investors says the interventon of Carney signalled that
sound. They can’t ignore it.”
stranded asset fears were now a reality. “It’s now in the mainstream
Campanale agrees. “It was thrilling moment that Shell and Exxon investment dictonary,” she adds. “Three to four years ago I’d have
took us seriously enough to produce 10 or 20 page leters to try and to explain what stranded assets were and I don’t have to do that
explain this,” he said. A series of replies from CTI branded the oil anymore.”
majors analysis “complacent” and said they understated their risks.
Mike Wilkins, managing director of Standard & Poor’s ratngs services
CTI’s analysis also exposed the lack of rigour at the heart of energy agrees that its profle has ballooned. “Whether fund managers and
modelling in the City, Hobley adds. “The 2011 analysis connectng others have changed investment decisions as a result of CTI’s work is
fossil fuel reserves and resources is fairly simple,” he says. hard to say, but the issue of carbon risk is far more prominent now
that it was just two years ago,” he says.
“You have got to ask yourself why had this not been done by the major
analysts – Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch or analytcal frms. global agreement?
To some degree they were lapping up what the energy companies All eyes are now on Paris, venue of the 2015 UN climate talks where
were saying. They’re the ones who do the forecasts.” a new global deal to limit emissions is set to be signed of by nearly
200 countries.
What really gave the CTI credibility was not so much this war of

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