Norway oil fund plans to withdraw from coal-burning utilities – by David Crouch and Pilita Clark (Financial Times – May 27, 2015)

Gothenburg and London – Norway’s $916bn oil fund will consider pulling billions of dollars of investments out of coal in a move that threatens European utilities using the fossil fuel to generate power.

Members of the finance committee of Norway’s parliament confirmed on Wednesday night that opposition and governing parties had reached agreement that the fund should withdraw investments from companies whose business relies more than 30 per cent on coal, measured either by revenue from fossil fuel or by the percentage of power they generate from it.

The proposal will be put to parliament on Thursday for a vote on June 5 but cross-party agreement means it is very likely that it will be passed.

Norway’s move is one of the most significant responses yet to a global divestment campaign that aims to ‎stigmatise the use of coal and other fossil fuels because of their input to climate change.

“This will make a huge difference, it will have influence on ordinary miners and energy companies,” said Terje Breivik, a Liberal party member of the finance committee. “The main explanation is that the oil fund itself is aware of the financial risk due to climate problems.”

The purpose of the deal was not that the fund should necessarily reduce its investments in coal companies, Mr Breivik said, “but it gives the fund a heavy tool to push companies to reduce their dependence on coal, which will be both good for the climate and for [reducing] financial risk”.

The finance committee had not discussed the effect on specific companies, Mr Breivik said, but he expected utilities such as Germany’s RWE and Eon, and Sweden’s Vattenfall, would be affected.

The fund has come under pressure to divest from fossil fuel stocks. In anticipation of curbs on its investments the fund has sold investments in coal mining companies and talked directly to conglomerates about hiving off their coal interests.

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