By selling upstream fossil fuel infrastructure assets, companies can claim progress towards net-zero goals even if this does not translate into real global emissions reductions. Further, asset sales by oil and gas supermajors can transfer assets to smaller and less publicly accountable entities so that the sold assets—and their transferred emissions—are subjected even less to decarbonizing pressures, hindering the ability of investors and the public to push for actual emissions reductions.
A study by the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI) examined the issue of transferred emissions by oil and gas supermajors, and recommended policies to address known limitations of traditional corporate carbon foot printing and emissions accounting approaches, close the gaps in corporate emissions disclosures frameworks and practices, and create incentives for oil and gas companies to redirect efforts towards real global emissions reductions, including through asset retirement.
UNCTAD’s World Investment Report (WIR) 2023 also examined the problem of transferred emissions, referring to studies by CCSI, Environmental Defense Fund and Ceres, and others, and advanced policy recommendations to address the problem, calling for a new model of dealmaking aligned with global net-zero targets. The WIR evaluates the trend of fossil fuel asset sales in recent years, highlights the role of private investors in the buying of assets, and discusses the potential for transformative change through action from top multinational enterprise sellers, institutional investors, and banks.
The issue of transferred emissions is relatively new and unexplored, and national and international policymakers have not fully grasped it and regulated it. Leveraging UNCTAD’s track record of positively impacting policymaking on investment, the event aims at building knowledge and raising awareness among the investment policymaking community (including heads of investment departments, representatives of investment promotion agencies, and investment-related negotiators) about transferred emissions, its potential climate impacts, the related regulatory challenges, and policy options to address them at international and domestic level.
The session will build on the findings and key messages of CCSI’s study Transferred Emissions Are Still Emissions: Why Fossil Fuel Asset Sales Need Enhanced Transparency and Carbon Accounting, on EDF and Ceres Tackling Transferred Emissions: Climate Principles for Oil and Gas Mergers and Acquisitions and of the WIR 2023 on Investing in Sustainable Energy for All.
- What are the climate impacts of transferred emissions, and how do upstream asset sales adversely impact global decarbonization efforts?
- How do current emissions accounting frameworks measure the impact of an upstream asset sale?
- What are the regulatory challenges pertaining to the topic of transferred emissions, and how can future policy changes help address these challenges?