Oslo. - Under the title "Still Dirty, Still Dangerous" NGOs have published an in-depth analysis of the coal portfolio of the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, the Norwegian Government Pension Global (GPF). The report was presented by Framtiden i våre hender (The Future in our Hands), Greenpeace Norway and the German NGO urgewald on Thursday at a hearing in the Norwegian parliament on the impacts of coal. It comes at a crucial time as Norway’s parliamentarians will be voting on a possible divestment of the GPF’s coal assets on June 5th.
"Although the GPF shed stocks in dozens of coal mining companies in 2014, our Pension Fund is still a major investor in coal production," says Arild Hermstad of the Future in our Hands. "Collectively, the companies in its portfolio account for 23% of the world’s annual coal production. Our country’s money should not be used to bury our own and everyone else’s future under a mountain of coal," he adds.
The report does, however, acknowledge that investments in coal mining companies went down significantly in comparison to 2013. "The problem is that these investments were shifted from coal mining to coal burning,” says Heffa Schücking, author of the report and director of urgewald. A prime example is the US. While the GPF dropped almost all US coal miners from its portfolio, it simultaneously upped its stakes in coal-fired utilities in the United States, which now amount to NOK 20.6 billion. Together, these U.S. utilities burn 335 million tons of coal annually, an amount that generates CO2 emissions 15 times as high as Norway’s own greenhouse gas emissions. "Investments were simply moved one level up the coal chain: from mining to utilities and from extraction to emissions," says Schücking.
"The Pension Fund’s manager, NBIM (Norges Bank Investment Management), reports on its divestment activities," says Truls Gulowsen of Greenpeace Norway, "but it keeps us in the dark on how this money is re-invested.” Gulowsen points out that the Pension Fund’s Chinese coal holdings, for example, jumped by 32% in comparison to 2013 and now equal NOK 7.2 billion. Together, the 11 Chinese utilities and coal-to-gas-companies in the GPF’s portfolio burn around 424 million tons of coal annually. Burning this amount of coal creates CO2 emissions that are 19 times as high as Norway’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions.
Many of the utilities the GPF is invested in have massive construction programs underway for new coal-fired power plants, especially in Asia. "If we continue investing in these companies, we are really undermining all chances of limiting global warming. to 2°C," adds Gulowsen.
All in all, the report identified coal assets in value of NOK 85.8 billion (€ 10.2 billion) in the GPF’s 2014 portfolio, an increase of over 3 billion kroner in comparison to 2013. "Moving resources from one part of the coal sector to another is “pretend divestment". If the Parliament truly wants to shift investments away from coal, it needs to recognize that coal mining and coal burning are part of the same dirty, destructive industry,” says Schücking.
"Divesting our Pension Fund from coal now is the most crucial and powerful step we can take as a country in the lead-up to the Paris climate negotiations,” states Hermstad. "Norway’s largest private pension Fund KLP already divested from companies which earn 50% or more of their revenue from coal. If our public Pension Fund truly wants to be a “Class A” Fund, it must go beyond what KLP has done," says Gulowsen.
He points out that there is broad support in Norwegian society for such a step. According to an opinion poll commissioned by Greenpeace in April 2015, 63% of Norwegians are in favour of divesting from the coal industry. The public’s opinion is mirrored in the Norwegian Parliament, where 5 parties that together hold a majority, have stated their wish to pull the Pension Fund out of coal companies. Suspense is building whether a majority in the Norwegian Parliament will seize the moment to turn this wish into reality on June 5th 2015.
=> Report: Still Dirty, Still Dangerous
Photo: © Paul Corbit Brown/ urgewald