World’s Largest Pension Fund Set to Divest from Coal
OSLO, Norway — On May 27, the Finance Committee of the Norwegian Parliament issued a unanimous recommendation to divest the country’s sovereign wealth fund from the coal industry. The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global is not only the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund; it is also one of the top ten investors in the global coal industry.
The recommendation asks the government to exclude companies deriving more than 30% of their revenues or their power production from coal. It will be formally adopted by the Parliament on June 5.
“It is a happy coincidence that this is World Environment Day,” says Arild Hermstad from the Norwegian NGO ‘The Future in our Hands’. “Coal is bad for all aspects of our environment: it destroys landscapes, contaminates water resources, pollutes the air and is the number one threat for our climate. Such investments are not in line with the values of Norwegian society, and the unanimous vote of the Finance Committee means that this is now recognized across all party lines.”
MP Torstein Tvedt Solberg from the Labor Party, who helped broker the agreement says: “I am pleased that all parties have agreed to withdraw the Pension Fund from coal. This is a great victory for our climate.”
“Through this decision, Norway is really taking a lead,” says Heffa Schücking from the German NGO urgewald. According to Schücking, the Norwegian exclusion criteria go further than what French Insurer Axa announced last week and set a new standard for investors worldwide.
The Parliament is instructing the Norwegian Government to begin implementing the new criteria from January 2016 onwards. “We expect that billions of euros will be withdrawn from the coal industry, when this happens,” says Truls Gulowsen from Greenpeace. “This is a huge win for the divestment movement and a real sign of hope that investment patterns can be changed, “ he adds.
Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, the organisation spearheading the global fossil fuel divestment campaign says, “If you’d told any of us, three years ago, that the planet’s largest sovereign wealth fund would begin divesting, we would have laughed. The way this idea–that the world has far more fossil fuel than it can burn–has spread is an enormously hopeful sign. There’s much work to be done taking on coal, oil, and gas but the momentum is definitely on our side.”
NGOs expect that the Pension Fund’s investments in companies like Germany’s RWE, China’s Shenhua, Duke Energy from the Unites States, Australia’s AGL Energy, Reliance Power from India, Japan’s Electric Power Development Corporation, Semirara Mining from the Philippines and Poland’s PGE will, for example, all be shed.
“Norwegian NGOs will not be alone, when they celebrate,” says Schücking. “There are broad popular resistance movements against the coal industry in all of these countries, and they are going to say: Thank you for divesting, Norway!”
Heffa Schuecking: firstname.lastname@example.org or +49 160 96761436
Truls Gulowsen: email@example.com or +47 901 07 904
Arild Hermstad: firstname.lastname@example.org or +47 980 36 762
NOTES TO EDITORS
 Since the launch of the divestment campaign in 2012, more than 220 institutions and local governments alongside thousands of individuals representing over $USD50 billion in assets have pledged to divest from fossil fuels. In this short period of time, the divestment movement has expanded its scope to include colleges, universities, faith organisations, municipalities and lately pension funds. According to a study by Oxford University, the fossil fuel divestment movement is the fastest growing divestment campaign in history. At present there are approximately 500 active campaigns worldwide.