Experts urge Norway oil fund to consider climate

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Photo: Norway waterfall in summer. Shutterstock
08:46 CET+01:00
An expert panel recommended on Wednesday that Norway's sovereign wealth fund, the world's largest, give more consideration to climate change in its investments but stopped short of calling for it to spurn fossil fuels as demanded by environmentalists.

The panel was appointed by the government to examine calls by environmental groups and some politicians for the fund to divest from coal, oil and natural gas companies.

The group of six independent experts recommended that climate change be added to the list of ethical criteria governing the six trillion kroner (€700 billion, $865 billion) fund's investments but said it should not be the basis for a blanket exclusion.

Factoring in climate change "would allow for exclusion of companies on a case-by-case basis where there is an unacceptable risk that the company contributes to, or is responsible for acts or omissions that, on an aggregate company level, are severely harmful to the climate," they said in a report.

Yet "fossil fuel companies' energy production, energy use or CO2 emissions" could not "per se be said to be contrary to generally accepted ethical norms", they added.

"We therefore do not recommend an automatic exclusion of all coal and petroleum producers from the fund."

Fed by the country's oil surplus, Norway's sovereign fund is invested in financial assets and real estate outside the country.

Under its current guidelines, it must avoid investments in groups accused of serious violations of human rights, child labour, manufacturers of "particularly inhuman" arms and tobacco firms, among others.

Panel head Martin Skancke told a press conference that the fund could play a more positive role in climate issues by using its shareholder power at companies with a poor record, rather than divesting from them.

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Greenpeace Norway called the findings "extremely disappointing and unambitious", while the Future in Our Hands group labelled the report "sad and outdated".

The debate is not over yet, however. The issue will be examined early next year in parliament, where several parties are in favour of divesting from the coal sector at a minimum.

On Monday, a major Norwegian pension fund, KLP, announced it had sold all its shares in 27 coal companies around the world.

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