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Accounting and climate change: the two degrees target and financing the transition to a low-carbon economy

Charnock, Robert (2016) Accounting and climate change: the two degrees target and financing the transition to a low-carbon economy. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis investigates the emergence of the long-term climate target to hold the increase in global average temperature below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This ‘two degrees target’ is shown to be the product of efforts to embed climate science, ‘cost-effective’ GHG control, and national sovereignty in a long-term climate goal, and that it became a foundation for work to align the financial sector with the transition to a lowcarbon economy. This thesis investigates how this target envisages an apparently simple and manageable future for addressing climate change, and comes to orient the strategies of diverse and distributed actors towards a common vision. The empirical core of this thesis is a participant observation of a United Nations and Greenhouse Gas Protocol standard-setting project, which is supplemented by semi-structured interviews and documentary analysis. This thesis studies four interrelated instruments, the two degrees target, the carbon budget, investment roadmaps and an emergent carbon accounting standard. It focuses on the work involved in assembling and adjusting these instruments, attending to the efforts to produce coherent and stable linkages between ideas of climate governance and the local specifics of the financial sector. This thesis shows how a carbon-constrained future with financial sector implications was envisaged. It also traces how ideas stemming from the two degrees target shifted the development of finance-specific carbon accounting practices away from greenhouse gas data and towards metrics for managing risk and monitoring alignment with investment roadmaps. This thesis, as a whole, contributes to our understanding of carbon accounting as a practice that embeds diverse modes of climate governance and coordinates action across multiple entities. It shows the processes through which an apparently simple vision for addressing climate change began to orient diverse and distributed efforts towards financing the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Robert John Charnock
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Sets: Departments > Accounting
Supervisor: Miller, Peter and Mennicken, Andrea

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