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Victory! Months after demonstrators in Oslo, Norway, demanded that the country's $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund divest from fossil fuels, they got their way (or at least a big part of it). Photo: Attila Dinnyes / 350.org via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).
Victory! Months after demonstrators in Oslo, Norway, demanded that the country's $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund divest from fossil fuels, they got their way (or at least a big part of it). Photo: Attila Dinnyes / 350.org via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).
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  • A pop-up fracking rig was erected outside London's City Hall on Monday to protest at Major Boris Johnson's refusal to consider fossil fuel divestment, and his statement that 'no stone may go unfracked'. Photo: Reclaim the Power.
    A pop-up fracking rig was erected outside London's City Hall on Monday to protest at Major Boris Johnson's refusal to consider fossil fuel divestment, and his statement that 'no stone may go unfracked'. Photo: Reclaim the Power.

Norway's $1 trillion wealth fund to divest from coal

The Ecologist

5th June 2015

Norway's sovereign wealth fund, worth over $900 billion, has today announced that it will divest from coal, a move expected to force the sale of investments worth $13.3 billion. Campaigners say that other funds have now 'run out of excuses' not to follow suit.

With Norway's decision, coal divestment has gone mainstream highlighting both the moral imperative and financial case for divestment. Other institutions are left with no excuse to not follow suit.

Today, on World Environment Day, Norway's Parliament unanimously approved a decision to divest the country's sovereign wealth fund from companies with more than 30% of their income from coal extraction or coal power.

According to calculations from campaign group urgewald, the divestment decision will affect investments in 150 companies worth approximately $13.3 billion (NOK 106.2 billion) of the fund's current investments, which are worth in excess of $900 billion.

"With Norway's decision, coal divestment has gone mainstream highlighting both the moral imperative and financial case for divestment", said Nicolo Wojewoda, lead campaigner for 350.org's European team.

"Other institutions are left with no excuse to not follow suit. Coal is on its last leg; with king coal falling from its throne, we are all more inspired to go after big oil and gas."

A coalition of civil society organizations including Greenpeace, WWF, Future in Our Hands, urgewald and 350.org hailed the decision as a critical first step out of fossil fuels by one of the world's most oil-dependent economies, adding:

"Norway's decision to divest its sovereign wealth fund from coal adds momentum to the growing global movement for climate action. This raises the bar for politicians to make further commitments - globally, as well as in Norway itself."

Now, invest 5% in renewables!

They also promised to continue campaigning for the fund's full divestment from all fossil fuels as well as increased investments in renewable energy: "Divestment from coal must be the first step for Norway, not the last. We will campaign for the fund to invest at least 5% of its value in renewables, particularly in emerging economies, and for full divestment from all fossil fuels.

"For Norway itself, our goal is a just transition out of oil and gas and into the green jobs of the future. We are rapidly approaching the time when no country can rely on fossil fuels for its economy or energy safety."

The fund's Ethical Council and its manager, the Bank of Norway, will now be tasked with developing regulations to implement the divestment decision, and the group of NGOs will be keeping close track of its actions and the precise wording it employs.

"These regulations will be critical to ensuring rapid, transparent and comprehensive implementation of this historic decision. Other investors, and civil society, will be watching closely to see if Norway can match its bold decision with equally bold and decisive action", say the civil society organizations.

Pressure builds on other funds

A number of funds are in the firing line for their failure to divest from fossil fuels, notably the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Foundation which are targetted by the Guardian's 'keep it in the ground' campaign.

350.org is now moving its focus to ABP, Holland's biggest pension fund, which has 2.8 million beneficiaries and has investments worth some €344 billion: "With your help, we believe we can nudge the world's third largest pension fund, the ABP, to divest from all fossil fuels.

"Just last week, their Chair Corien Wortmann got a tough grilling from a popular Dutch news anchor. She was asked repeatedly to respond to the growing @ABPfossielvrij campaign calling on them to divest from fossil fuels."

On Monday this week London's City Hall was targetted in a protest by Reclaim the Power to denounce the London Mayor Boris Johnson's dismissal of the call from Divest London and the London Assembly call to divest their £4.8bn pension fund from oil, coal and gas, and his outspoken support for fracking.

Taking the Mayor at his word that "no stone should be left unfracked" they erected a 30ft tripod masquerading as a fracking drill directly outside City Hall and superglued themselves to the front of the building (see photo) while the noise of a fracking drill was relayed through loudspeakers.

In another victory for divestment campaigners, Oxford University voted last month to divest its £1.7 billion endowment fund from all direct holdings in coal and oil sands.

 


 

Further reading: Analysis of the direct consequences of the divestment decision for the holdings of the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund.

 

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