Norway has more money than it knows what to do with. And while leaders figure out how they want to manage the nation’s roughly $790 billion public pension fund going forward, there’s real potential for an “unprecedented shift” in renewable energy investment. Norway’s enormous pension coffers, fat off the country’s offshore oil wealth, could ironically prove a total game changer for development of renewables and global action on climate change.
The fortunes are locked up in the nation’s massive Government Pension Fund, formerly the “Petroleum Fund of Norway” and the world’s largest such sovereign fund, which owns over 1-percent of the world’s stocks. It’s often called the world’s largest shareholder of stocks. Management of the fund is the subject of near constant debate among the Norwegian politicians and populace. How they invest all this money not only impacts the country’s roughly 5 million citizens, who all stand to benefit greatly from the pension payouts, but is a force unparalleled in driving international markets.
As a new government takes control in Norway, another review of the fund, its holdings, and its management is underway. The newly-elected Conservative government, led by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, are considering proposals to invest a considerable portion of the fund’s wealth in renewable energy companies, and sustainability projects in the developing world, as reported by Kieran Cooke in Climate News Network. Specifically, the party’s platform declares that it should “take into consideration the establishment of a dedicated mandate for renewable energy, with the same management requirements as other GPFG investments.”
While the party’s proposals didn’t get into any particulars — specific companies or projects that could be invested in, nor how much of the fund would be devoted to such investments — there is already eager speculation.
“If Norway actually does this, it will be an unprecedented shift in the global investment community and also for tangible action on climate change,” said Samantha Smith, head of the global climate and energy initiative at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
WWF-Norway is calling upon the fund’s managers to commit 5% of its portfolio to renewable energy investments, and to divest from all coal and tar sands holdings.
“Norwegian savings could change the world,” said Nina Jensen, CEO of WWF-Norway. “This would provide a powerful boost for the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”
The government’s announcement comes soon after a coalition of investors, banks, businesses and NGOs (including WWF and Greenpeace) sent a letter to leaders of all of Norway’s major political parties, requesting that the start investing “directly into infrastructure, such as those for the production and distribution of energy from renewable sources.” Apparently Prime Minister Solberg was actually listening.
If the Norwegian fund does get serious about investment in renewables, it’ll be the latest in a string of “only in Scandanavia” stories that include Norwegian pension and insurance giant Storebrand divesting from 19 “financially worthless” fossil fuel companies, and Norway doubling its carbon tax and sending revenues to a fund to help developing deal with climate impacts.
Norway: where fossil fuel divestment and a carbon tax are reality, and Conservatives suggest investing public funds in renewable energy projects.