Norway’s SWF to divest from coal

Norway’s $800bn Sovereign Wealth Fund (NBIM) is likely to divest from coal assets as the Labour Party now signals that the Pension Fund should withdraw from coal.

The Labour Party is now in opposition after their election defeat earlier this autumn, but can contribute to forming a majority in this issue as a handful smaller parties already support such a step.

The Labour Party spokesman, Jonas Gahr Støre, says in a statement (Norwegian) that the time has come to decide that the Pension Fund shall avoid investments in coal companies. Mr. Støre served seven years as Minister of Foreign Affairs during Jens Stoltenberg’s Government.

Støre says that the Norwegian Pension Fund’s behaviour has a great signal effect, and that the Fund earlier has withdrawn from tobacco and palm oil-companies. He adds that this move is a natural follow-up of the agreement between the Nordic countries and the US made when president Obama visited Stockholm this summer. The Nordic countries and the US then said that they should avoid using government funds for coal investments abroad.

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The Labour Party now asks the Government to assess how divestment from coal can take place. The new right wing Government with Erna Solberg as Prime Minister will present their first white paper about NBIM for the Parliament next spring.

Many difficult questions have to be tackled when NBIM shall divest from coal assets, and the Labour Party wants the Government to explore a range of issues before a final desicion is made.

Should only the coal mining sector be included? Should NBIM also divest from utilities operating coal fired power plants?

NBIM is a large shareholder both in companies like BHP Billiton, Xstrata Glencore and in coal-dependent power utilities like E.On and RWE. You can download the full list of NBIM’s assets as of 31.12.12 in Excel spreadsheet format. Or alternatively download as pdf or search from the NBIM website.

The Labour Party has earlier declined to change NBIM’s investment profile in the energy sector, but Støre now says that increased investment in renewable energy also should be considered as a part of the discussion on NBIM’s strategy.