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Publication Detail
Transparency principle for carbon emissions drives sustainable finance
  • Publication Type:
    Internet publication
  • Authors:
    Kenyon C, Berrahoui M, Macrina A
  • Publication date:
  • Status:
  • Keywords:
    Carbon emissions, climate change, global warming, sustainable finance, stranded assets, credit risk, permanence of CO2 sequestration
Alignment of financial market incentives and carbon emissions disincen- tives is key to limiting global warming (Bednar, Obersteiner, Baklanov, Thomson, Wagner, Geden, Allen, and Hall 2021). Regulators and stan- dards bodies have made a start by requiring some carbon-related disclosures (BoE 2021) and proposing others (Anderson 2019; PACF 2020; FSB 2017). Here we go further and propose a Carbon Equivalence Principle: all finan- cial products shall contain a description of the equivalent carbon flows from greenhouse gases that the products enable, as well as their existing descrip- tion in terms of cash flows. This description of the carbon flows enabled by the project shall be compatible with existing bank systems that track cash- flows so that carbon flows have equal standing to cash flows. We demonstrate that this transparency alone can align incentives by applying it to project fi- nance examples for power generation (EIA 2020; EIA 2021) and by following through the financial analysis. The financial requirements to offset costs of carbon flows enabled in the future (Bertram, Hilaire, Kriegler, Beck, Bresch, Clarke, Cui, Edmonds, Min, and Piontek 2020) radically change project costs, and risk that assets become stranded, thus further increasing costs. This observation holds whichever partner in the project bears the enabled- carbon costs. Mitigating these risks requires project re-structuring to include negative emissions technologies (Fuss, Lamb, Callaghan, Hilaire, Creutzig, Amann, Beringer, de Oliveira Garcia, Hartmann, Khanna, et al. 2018). We also consider that sequestered carbon needs to remain sequestered perma- nently, e.g., for at least one hundred years. We introduce mixed financial- physical solutions to minimise this permanence cost, and price to them. This complements previous insurance-based proposals (Marland, Fruit, and Sedjo 2001; Coleman 2018) with lesser scope. For financial viability we introduce project designs that are financially net-zero, and as a consequence are carbon negative. Thus we see that adoption of the Carbon Equivalence Principle for financial products aligns incentives, requires product redesign, and is simply good financial management driving sustainability.
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