Norway fund dumps firms linked to West Bank settlements

Norway's sovereign wealth fund, the world's largest, has decided to dump two companies involved in the development of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, citing concerns about potential rights violations.

Norway fund dumps firms linked to West Bank settlements
Offshore oil rig in Norway. Photo by Jan-Rune Smenes Reite from Pexels

The fund will divest its holdings in the companies “due to unacceptable risk that the companies contribute to systematic violations of individuals’ rights in situations or war or conflict”, Norway’s central bank said in a statement late Wednesday.

The companies are Shapir Engineering and Industry, a home builder, and Mivne Real Estate, which rents industrial premises in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel, Norway’s central bank said in a statement late Wednesday.

Over 465,000 Israeli settlers now live in settlements in the West Bank –three times more than when the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians were signed in the 1990s.

READ MORE: Norway taps oil wealth to cushion Covid impact 

The fund, which has nearly 1.1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) in assets and is managed by the central bank, also added a Japanese women’s clothing and accessories maker to its blacklist over worries of human rights abuses.

The fund’s ethics committee recommended the fund exclude Honeys Holdings after investigations found “numerous labour rights violations” at two factories that the company owns in Myanmar.

In practice the exclusions mean the fund has sold its stakes in the three companies and will not reinvest in them as long as the activities continue.

The fund, which holds equity stakes in some 8,800 companies worldwide, is governed by a set of ethical rules that prohibit it from investing in companies guilty of serious human rights violations, those that manufacture nuclear weapons, or produce coal or tobacco.

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Norway sees oil in its future despite IEA’s warnings

Norway, Western Europe's biggest oil producer, plans to continue its oil exploration and drilling in the coming decades, the government said on Friday, despite warnings from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Norway sees oil in its future despite IEA's warnings
A North Sea oil rig. Photo by Jan-Rune Smenes Reite from Pexels

In a white book on its energy future, Oslo said it wanted to “extend the current practice with regular concession cycles on the Norwegian continental shelf to give the industry access to new prospecting zones.”

“We will supply energy to the world as long as the demand exists,” Oil and Energy Minister Tina Bru told a press conference.

“The government will therefore maintain an oil policy that facilitates profitable oil and gas production in the framework of the Norwegian climatepolicy and our climate goals,” she said.

The Scandinavian country aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by between 50 and 55 percent by 2030, and to almost nothing by 2050.

But it is regularly criticised for the CO2 emissions generated abroad by the oil it exports.

READ MORE: Norway taps oil wealth to cushion Covid impact

This week, Norway launched a call for applications for a new licensing round in new offshore zones.

The Norwegian position contrasts sharply with that of the IEA, which recently warned that all future fossil fuel projects must be scrapped if the world is to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

International observers have criticised the Norwegian position.

“The Norwegian government and industry cannot ignore science,” said Sandrine Dixson-Decleve, co-president of international think tank The Club of Rome.

“We look to Norway for leadership and ambition on the energy transition – not complacency and backtracking,” she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the head of climate and energy issues at the WWF, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, said that “by standing on the side of fossil fuel interests, Norway risks having stranded assets.”

“Norway’s position will increase the risk of the world reaching fragile climate tipping points, which in turn will cause devastating impacts on the natural world on which we depend,” he said.

In 2018, Norway was the world’s 14th biggest producer of oil and 8th biggest producer of natural gas, according to the latest figures from the US Energy Information Administration.