The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
Get our free newsletter
Sign Up
Local Economy

Kenney’s Conspiracy Theories Crashing into Realities of Corporate Climate Risk

While premier rails against Alberta credit downgrade, financial world recognizes global warming threat.

Mitchell Anderson 10 Dec 2019 |

Mitchell Anderson is a freelance writer based in Vancouver and a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

Truth seems a receding concept in Alberta these days. The latest example was Premier Jason Kenney’s reaction to Moody’s decision to downgrade the province’s credit rating.

According to the premier, financial institutions are “buying into the political agenda emanating from Europe, which is trying to stigmatize development of hydrocarbon energy... These folks are often making these decisions based on dated, distorted, torqued data provided by green-left pressure groups.”

Credit rating agencies are generally not known for their strident political positions or reliance on the opinions of pressure groups.

For the record, Moody’s based the Alberta downgrade on “a structural weakness in the provincial economy that remains concentrated and dependent on non-renewable resources — primarily oil — which causes volatility in financial performance...”

“Environmental considerations are material to Alberta’s credit profile and Moody’s considers environmental risk to be high,” the credit rating firm said. “Alberta’s oil and gas sector is carbon intensive and Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions are the highest among provinces.”

Kenney’s response seems typical of the woolly-headed conservative zeitgeist that blames any doubts about the wisdom of massively increasing extraction of economically marginal fossil fuels on some sinister “political agenda.”

Climate change is not political, and caring about it can be based on calculated self-interest — even corporate and investor self-interest. Increasing concentrations of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere are destabilizing our climate, with catastrophic consequences for everyone, including conservative voters.

Many climate-complacent Albertans seem to be at war with the laws of physics and, lately, with mathematics.

Observers within the financial sector are less hostile to data and have concluded climate change is a risk. For instance, the insurance industry has realized that providing continued coverage to the coal industry is not in the financial interest of its shareholders.

The economics of coal generation are collapsing as renewable energy prices plunge and even the largest coal companies face insolvency.

And as the largest contributor to climate change, the coal industry also inflates disaster-related insurance claims, which increased to a record US$138 billion in 2017. As of last month, 35 insurers with combined assets of $8.9 trillion have begun divesting from the coal sector, which is well on the way to becoming uninsurable.

It’s not just insurers. The Australian Accounting Standards Board recently released new guidance to the nation’s financial professionals calling for greater disclosure of climate risk in financial statements. Last month, the International Accounting Standards Board, which develops reporting protocols used in 140 countries, issued a similar statement on material climate risks. Making it a triple play, 29 investor groups representing $1.2 trillion just put the four largest accounting firms on notice that if auditors failed to implement the latest climate risk reporting standards, they would face shareholder motions for their dismissal.

While local oil ideologues might want to dismiss these shifts in the insurance and accounting industry as a fringe political agenda, empirical evidence says otherwise. For years, Bank of England governor and central banking superstar Mark Carney has used his rarified position in the financial sector to goose companies towards improved climate related financial reporting.

In 2015, he formed the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, currently chaired by U.S. presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg. Carney also warned that companies need to quickly agree on credible climate metrics or have them imposed by regulators, and that those firms that ignore the climate crisis will go bankrupt.

Carney’s term at the Bank of England is up in 2020, and he understandably declined to stick around for the post-Brexit train wreck. While he could easily segue into a cushy corporate gig of his choosing, Carney has instead decided his next career will be with the United Nations as Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance for $1 a year. According to Carney, his primary focus will be on improving financial reporting: “The disclosures of climate risk must become comprehensive, climate risk management must be transformed, and investing for a net-zero world must go mainstream.”

Even under the lax reporting standards enjoyed for decades by oil companies, concealing climate risks can have grave corporate consequences. ExxonMobil is currently being sued by New York state for failing to disclose climate-related liabilities to its investors. While the state scaled back its claim in closing arguments, more than a dozen other lawsuits are moving through the U.S. court system. Each case requires companies to disclose documents about what they knew about the damage done by their products.

Progress has been painfully slow, but the financial world is finally being dragged toward corporate climate transparency. Moody’s isn’t unfairly targeting Alberta. It is belatedly beginning to account for known financial risks that have been in plain view for years.

This is yet another reason to rapidly diversify Alberta’s oil-dependent economy, a reality that seems to be sinking in even among oil companies. Suncor just made a $300-million provincial investment — in a wind farm.

Kenney apparently sees political profit in adding credit rating agencies to his long list of perceived oil enemies. But rather than more opportunistic and empty rhetoric, the province needs credible leadership based on facts. Albertans facing a fundamental and challenging shift away from fossil fuels deserve as much.

And if the premier wants to woo investors to the province, he might want to tone down his conspiratorial aspersions about their motives.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: What Coverage Would You Like to See More of This Year?

Take this week's poll