Yesterday, Fossil Free Indexes, LLC released The Carbon Underground, a report identifying the top 100 public coal companies and the top 100 public oil and gas companies globally, ranked by the potential amount of carbon pollution represented by their fuel reserves. The report provides a much-needed update to the 2011 Unburnable Carbon report produced by the Carbon Tracker Initiative. The Carbon Underground frighteningly concludes that the carbon pollution of these fossil fuel reserves surpasses their “carbon budget” by a whopping 400%.
“Carbon budget” refers to the amount of carbon pollution that a sector must remain within in order to avoid the most dangerous consequences of global warming that would occur with a 2 degree Celsius rise in temperature. The report states that the energy sector’s carbon budget, based on data from the International Energy Association and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will be spent within 22 years — even with emissions reductions of 10%. Moreover, at this level, three-fourths of the reserves will still be in the ground.
The report observes the astounding fact that despite the threats to the planet: “exploration and development of fossil fuel resources continue unabated.”
Investors have an increasingly important role to play in the tremendous shift needed to switch the economies of the world to reliance on renewable energy. The planet cannot sustain the continued burning of fossil fuels and the necessary decline of the fossil fuel industry means investors and the marketplace will face staggering “stranded assets” – assets that have become de-valued and become a loss. The New Abolitionism article in the already-released May 12, 2014 issue of The Nation magazine estimates that stranded assets could equate to as much as $20 trillion globally.
There is no time to waste in terms of profoundly cutting our greenhouse gas emissions. By divesting from fossil fuel companies and re-investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, investors can play an important role in pushing our economy in the direction required. Building on The Carbon Underground, Fossil Free Indexes, LLC will soon release broad market indexes that the average investor can use to divest from fossil fuel companies — for the sake of the planet and to help safeguard one’s personal assets.