Abstract

Transition risks for finance arise from the transition to a low-carbon economy, which can disrupt the ability of carbon-intensive industries to meet their financial obligations and lead to abrupt changes in asset valuations of affected firms and default on their debt. An understanding of these risks is key for any ambitious emissions reduction programme, such as that implied by the Paris Agreement. Insight from theory and study of past transitions is of limited help, as these see financial risks mostly flowing from speculation with rising industries propped up by a set of new vastly more productive technologies. The current transition instead requires policy to quickly render a set of currently productive high-carbon industries unprofitable, stranding their assets, so the risks are located in the declining industries. Absent a unified framework of the interaction of real and financial aspects of the transition, one set of studies conceptualises and quantifies asset stranding and other transition costs in declining industries, and a separate one estimates the potential impact of these transition costs on the financial system. Combining these two research strands and modelling the feedback of financial distress on the real economy will require more research, which could help integrate transition risks into the cost analysis of mitigation in integrated assessment models. An important insight from the past transitions literature is that once low-carbon industries are rendered more profitable than high-carbon ones, financial risks could also build in these newly rising industries due to speculation.

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