Fossil fuel reserves and resources reporting and unburnable carbon: Investigating conflicting accounts

Jan Bebbington, Thomas Schneider, Lorna Stevenson, Alison Fordyce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)


This paper investigates fossil fuel reserves and resources disclosures and how they might change in response to global climate change agreements that seek to limit greenhouse gas emissions. On the one hand, it might be expected that fossil fuel firms will be less valuable if their reserves become ‘unburnable’. On the other hand, capital markets currently assign a positive value to fossil fuel reserves and resources. A conundrum, therefore, exists. Given that accounting disclosure rules underpin capital market valuation processes, this setting provides an opportunity to interrogate the functionality of accounting during a time of change. To achieve this goal, a multi-methods investigation has been undertaken; combining a survey of accounting disclosure rules for reserves, identification of accounting disclosures made by fuel firms in several country stock markets, and stock market participants’ views on the extent to which unburnable carbon exists. Using Miller and Power (2013) we identify when and how unburnable carbon could be recognized in corporate reporting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102083
JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
Early online date3 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Accounting regulation
  • Global climate change
  • Stranded assets
  • Unburnable carbon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Information Systems and Management


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