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Norway’s $1 trillion fund to dump oil and gas shares
10 March 2019, 10:38 | Hattie Nash
World’s largest sovereign wealth fund in Norway to dump oil stocks
European energy stocks fell sharply after the Norwegian government said its trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund, the world's largest, will drop oil and gas companies from its benchmark index and its investment universe.
The fund invests Norway's revenues from oil and gas production for future generations in stocks, bonds and real estate overseas.
The government of Norway, the biggest oil and gas producer in western Europe, said it was specifically targeting exploration and production companies, "rather than selling a broadly diversified energy sector".
"The objective is to reduce the vulnerability of our commonwealth to a permanent oil price decline", Finance Minister Siv Jensen said, stressing the move should not be interpreted as a lack of confidence in the future of the oil sector.
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Norway's $1 trillion wealth fund will begin dumping its shares in oil and gas companies, but stopped short of expelling major producers like Total and Chevron.
Major integrated oil companies will be breathing a sigh of relief, as the Norwegian fund owns large amounts of their shares. The fund said the shift would affect 1.2 percent of its equity holdings.
The decision "does not reflect any specific view on the oil price, future profitability or sustainability of the petroleum sector". "This assessment is thus independent of the government's current petroleum policy, which remains unchanged".
After more than a year of deliberation, the government on Friday approved excluding 150 companies that are held by the fund and classified as exploration and production companies by FTSE Russell.
The Norwegian fund derives its income from the country's own oil and gas industry.
Charlie Kronick, oil campaigner for environment group Greenpeace UK, said: "This partial divestment from oil and gas is welcome, but not enough to mitigate Norway's exposure to both global oil and gas prices and the wider financial ramifications of climate change".
Talking point: The significance of this move is in its motivation: not necessarily one of climate activism, but a clear indication that there is financial advantage in a transition away from fossil fuels. The Norwegian government indicated in its release that it expects most of the future growth in renewable energy to come from companies that do not now have renewable energy as their main business. That oil and gas have contributed millions and millions of tons of carbon dioxide to the Earth's atmosphere during that time.
Last year, a panel of experts appointed by the government advised against divesting oil stocks, arguing it would only have a marginal impact on Norway's oil exposure.
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However, environmental organizations in the country want the Finance Ministry to proceed and take new steps that ultimately will result in a full exit from companies engaged in oil and gas.
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