Coal holdings too high

Three environmental organizations pass judgment on Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund

Photo: Stephen Codrington / Wikimedia The environmentally frought energy source still makes up too great a percentage of the SWF.

Photo: Stephen Codrington / Wikimedia
The environmentally frought energy source still makes up too great a percentage of the SWF.

Michael Sandelson
The Foreigner

Norges Bank was buoyant in their statements regarding 2014 when they published their results last week.

Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund divested from 53 coal companies. This is a third of the total number of coal companies found in the portfolio last year, Germany’s Urgewald says about their preliminary analysis of the figures.

The German NGO, Greenpeace Norway, Norway’s The Future in Our Hands, and Greenpeace Norway have already stated in their Dirty and Dangerous report that the SWF’s stakes in the coal industry were NOK 82.7 billion for 2013—higher than previously acknowledged.

Calling the reduction “a laudable first step,” Urgewald director Heffa Schuecking declares the overall result to be “very disappointing.”

According to her, this is because the SWF’s total investments in the coal industry show just a marginal decrease.

They are currently NOK 79 billion (EUR 9.16 billion), Schuecking comments regarding the 2014 figures, 4.6 percent lower than the previous year’s holdings.

The jettisoning of 53 coal companies amounts to NOK 7.7 billion, but half of this sum was used to top up existing coal holdings or invest in new coal companies, states Urgewald.

Greenpeace Norway’s Truls Gulowsen remarks that “this is well illustrated by the development of the GPF’s coal portfolio in China and India.”

“We are happy to see that the SWF divested a total of NOK 729 million by dropping 13 Indian coal companies, but at the same time, it has increased its investments in the Chinese coal sector by NOK 741 million.”

“In addition to the big money still remaining, it seems that the sell/buy they are conducting in the coal sector regarding the companies is still a bit random, which underlines the need for far more resources if they are going to succeed in proper ownership strategy,” he tells The Foreigner.

The Future in Our Hands’ Arild Hermstad calls for real coal divestment now. “Simply shifting destructive investments from one place to another cannot be the solution,” he says.

At the same time, Truls Gulowsen sounds one positive note: “Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) and CEO Yngve Slyngstad are realizing that a growing number of coal companies are not sustainable, and have also realized that active engagement with these companies is leading nowhere. That is a clear signal to the politicians, who must give a clear mandate to divest from coal this spring.”

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the March 27, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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