Carbon Bubble

We are filing shareholder resolutions with companies asking for risk scenarios and mitigation plans to address the potential stranding of fossil fuel reserves. If fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned, companies holding these reserves will be overvalued, and the resulting market bubble created by overvalued reserves puts investors at risk.

New Carbon Tracker Report Debunks ExxonMobil’s Denial of Carbon Asset Risks

Exxon underperforms vs. S&P 500 by 8% for past five years due to overspending on risky replenishment of reserves

The Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI) has issued a report finding that ExxonMobil (XOM) – the largest U.S. energy company – is significantly underestimating the risks to its business model from investments in higher cost, higher carbon reserves; increasing national and subnational climate regulation; competition from renewables; and demand stagnation, among other factors. Click through to read our statement.

Landmark Agreement with Shareholders: ExxonMobil Agrees to Report on Climate Change & Carbon Asset Risk

Withdrawal of Shareholder Proposal Seeking Disclosure on Stranded Carbon Assets Leads to Agreement with Largest U.S. Oil and Gas Producer

In response to a shareholder resolution, ExxonMobil, the largest U.S. energy company, for the first time ever has agreed to publish a Carbon Asset Risk report on the Company website describing how it assesses the risk of stranded assets from climate change. The report will provide investors with greater transparency into how ExxonMobil plans for a future where market forces and climate regulation makes at least some portion of its carbon reserves unburnable.

As You Sow and co-filer Arjuna Capital have agreed to withdraw their shareholder resolution in exchange for ExxonMobil providing information to shareholders on the risks that stranded assets pose to the Company’s business model, how the company is planning for a carbon constrained world, how climate risks affect capital expenditure plans, and other related issues.

Read the full press release here>>>

Exxon’s report will address:

  • How Exxon assesses the risk of a low carbon scenario, other than placing a price on carbon.
  • Why the Company, in assessing the economic viability of proved undeveloped and undeveloped reserves, fails to conduce a scenario analysis based on a scenario consistent with reducing GHG emissions 80% by 2050 to achieve the 2 degree goal. How the Company stress tests its capital investment opportunities.
  • How Exxon’s base case scenario tracks with the IPCC.
  • How Exxon plans for scenarios that diverge from the “Energy Outlook”. Whether or not the Company includes a factor of safety and how that factor is determined.
  • How the Company incorporates a low carbon assessment into capital allocation plans and the implications for capital expenditure plans.
  • Why the Company believes current investments in new reserves are not particularly exposed to the risk of stranded assets. How current capital expenditure is affected by any considerations the Company makes with regards to future short-to-long term risk of stranded assets. The probability/likelihood assigned to that risk.
  • Information for investors to analyze assets at risk in a low carbon scenario. A) The breakdown of the resource base by resource type and location, i.e. oil, gas, heavy oil, bitumen, conventional, deep-water, acid/sour gas, etc. B) Unit profitability by type of production.
  • How the Company assesses capital projects versus alternative uses such as buybacks and dividends.
  • The relative carbon intensity of owned assets using third party information on relative carbon intensities of sources.
  • The company’s production forecast based upon prices remaining flat and the CAPEX outlook for the next several years.

Background

Coal, oil, and gas reserves that are claimed as assets on the balance sheets of the top 100 coal, oil, and gas companies contain over three times the total amount of carbon that scientists believe can be released without climate catastrophe. In the 2012 World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency states that “[n]o more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2 degree Celsius goal,” generally recognized as the level beyond which global warming will have dire ramifications.

If laws and regulations are adjusted to recognize this limitation, the vast majority of fossil fuel companies will be left with stranded assets in the form of unburnable reserves and underused infrastructure. Importantly for shareholders, the majority of such companies will be overvalued, presenting the risk of a “carbon bubble.” The valuation of these companies are the core of the Dow Jones and many other international financial indexes, so the impact of these stranded assets could ripple through national and international financial markets, just as the overvaluation of housing—or the housing bubble—did, with disastrous consequences.

As You Sow is working to promote transparency and reporting on this issue by filing shareholder resolutions with key fossil fuel companies. Our resolution asks companies to report plans to address global concerns regarding fossil fuels and their contribution to climate change, including an analysis of long- and short-term financial and operational risks to the company and society.

Further, the resolution asks companies to perform an analysis of various scenarios the company deems likely, or reasonably possible, in which a portion of its reserves or infrastructure become stranded due to carbon regulation, and to discuss the impact those scenarios would have on the company’s plans to invest resources in continuing to explore or further develop new coal or gas reserves.

This information will enable investors to analyze how companies are positioned to address climate change and carbon restrictions, providing valuable information for investors to make reasonable judgments about the benefits or risks associated with investing in these companies. After the credit and financial crises of 2008, it critical that investors are more attuned to the catastrophic effects of mispriced assets in the financial market.

2014 Shareholder Engagements