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

Jan Bebbington, Thomas Schneider, Lorna Stevenson, Alison Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
310 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
Number of pages22
JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
Early online date3 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • accounting regulation
  • global climate change
  • unburnable carbon
  • stranded assets
  • Unburnable carbon
  • Stranded assets
  • Accounting regulation
  • Global climate change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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