There was a jubilant atmosphere in the country’s Storting as MPs came to vote through the decision, which was agreed last month unanimously by representatives of all the parties in parliament.
“This is an extension of the ethical guidelines the oil fund is built on,” said Siv Jensen, Norway’s finance minister and Nina Jensen’s sister. “Now we will follow up the decision by obtaining views and advice from the Ethics Committee and Norges Bank [which manages the fund] and return to Parliament with an appropriate way to refine this."
The oil fund will have to sell a massive 67 billion Norwegian kroner ($8.5bn) worth of shares in coal companies when the new divestment criteria come into force in January, German green group Urgewald estimated in a new report issued on the eve of the vote.
According to the report, Norway Divests!, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund will have to sell stakes in 122 companies if it is to clear its giant portfolio from companies which fall foul of the criteria.
“This is the biggest divestment act to date from the coal industry and sets a new standard for investors worldwide,” Heffa Schücking, the report’s author, wrote.
The most significant investments facing the chop are major European utilities with a heavy reliance on coal power, with the fund’s biggest single coal investment tabbed for sale being its 7.4bn NOK share of British power company SSE, which generates 46 percent of its power from the fuel.
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The next biggest holdings to be divested are the fund's 5.4bn NOK investment in Germany power company E.on, its 5.3bn NOK investment in Italy’s Enel, and its 2.5bn NOK investment in German RWE, although E.on and Enel only qualified because their coal expansion plans threaten to take them over the 30 percent threshold in the future, according to Urgewald.
Schücking argued that the exclusion criteria should be extended to take in the world’s three biggest diversified mining companies, BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Glencore, and giant Chinese oil companies Sinopec and CNOOC should also be excluded, even though they did not meet the 30 percent threshold, because the potential environmental impacts of their coal activities was so serious.