London Stock Exchange set for ‘carbon bubble’ protest

Campaigners to hand out bottles of “carbon bubbles” to highlight problem of unburnable fossil fuel reserves

If the London Stock Exchange continues to finance fossil fuels, it could lead to both economic and environmental disaster

By Sophie Yeo

Of all the bubbly drinks the attendees at today’s London Stock Exchange AGM might hope to receive, a bottle of “carbon bubbles” probably isn’t one of them.

Yet this is what campaigners will be handing out to shareholders attending the meeting, in an attempt to convince them to move away from financing fossil fuels.

The bottles are meant to represent the idea of the economic “carbon bubble” that will hit markets as fossil fuels become worthless.

A report released by the Climate Tracker Initiative last April said that, while the earth currently harbours 2,860 billion tonnes of indicated fossil fuel reserves, only 31% of this can be burnt if global temperatures are going to be kept below 2°C. This means that 69% of fossil fuel assets could be worthless.

According to Ted Franks from investment managers WHEB, the London Stock Exchange has 84 tonnes of potential CO2 for every $1,000 of market capitalisation. “This makes it the second most carbon-intensive stock exchange in the world, after Moscow,” he writes.

Labels on the bottles, handed out by activists from the World Development Movement, will inform the shareholders that, “The ‘carbon bubble’ is the amount of CO2 that would be released if all known fossil fuel reserves were extracted and burnt.

“Just 30 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange hold more of this unburned carbon than the CO2 emissions of the whole world for the past six years. Burning these reserves would make catastrophic climate change a certainty.”

Campaigner Kirsty Wright said: “The vast majority of the fossil fuels for which shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange simply cannot be burned. Failing to address this now can lead us down only two paths – a climate-related financial crisis, or complete planetary meltdown. In order to avoid climate chaos, we have to keep most of the coal, oil and gas we know about in the ground.”

There are currently no plans to discuss the problem of a carbon bubble at today’s meeting.

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