“Divesting from coal is only the first step”

An interview with Rasmus Hansson, co-spokesperson and Member of the parliament for our Norwegian member party, Miljøpartiet De Grønne, about divestment from fossil fuels and Norway’s role in the movement.

- When it comes to divestment from fossil fuels, Norway seems to be one of the leading countries, with the City of Oslo or the Sovereign Wealth Fund having committed to divest, for example. Who are the key drivers of the divestment movement in Norway?

Several environmental organisations, including WWF, Friends of the Earth Norway, and the Norwegian environmental organisation, Future in our Hands, have been important drivers.

International pressure and attention have also been very influential. Divesting from coal was also the very first proposal from the Green party when we entered parliament for the first time after the national elections in 2013. At that point we received almost no support from the other parties, but his has changed very fast. Several other parties such as the Liberal Party, the Socialist Left Party and the Christian Democrats in Norway have also been in favour of divesting. In 2014, the Labour party changed their position and made it possible to achieve a majority in the parliament.

- What is the situation in Norway today?

The largest pension fund in Norway, KLP, and the Sovereign Wealth Fund’s decisions to divest from coal based activity is still being pursued. The divestment strategy of the Sovereign Wealth Fund had, until 2014, lead to the divestment from 114 companies. This continued in 2015 with a further divestment from 73 companies. Included in this was the divestment from 42 companies linked to climate gas emissions.

- This announcement of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest, to divest from coal assets has undoubtedly been a big success. Yet, this is only a partial divestment. Is this commitment enough? What is your opinion on this announcement?

 Further engagement is sought for the divestment of fossil fuel investments from the fund. The Norwegian Greens are pushing for a gradual divestment from other fossil fuel activity as well.

- What else should the Norwegian government do to push on the divestment from fossil fuels in Norway? 

The Norwegian government just presented a white paper on its strategy for the Sovereign Wealth Fund. The expert group that the government asked to undertake the study on whether divestment is a better tool than owning the stocks, did not have a favourable opinion on divestment as a useful strategy. Unfortunately, the government is not overly ambitious in this white paper, and we will use the opportunity to push for stronger instructions on the divestment strategy of the fund.

- Which part do the Norwegian Greens play in the divestment movement? Will you continue to be active on the topic this year, e.g. during Break Free Week in May?

We consider our pension fund as one of the most most powerful tools we have in Norway to deal with climate change and other environmental threats. The pension fund is made from money we have earned as a large producer of oil and gas. That is why we also have a moral obligation to use the fund to solve the climate crisis. Divesting away from coal is only the first step. We hope that the Break Free Week can become a global wave of mass action against further investments in fossil fuels and the acceleration of investments in renewables.

This could send a very strong message to the Norwegian pension fund and decision makers in all parts of the world. We will contribute as best as we can.

- What are Miljøpartiet De Grønne's key demands when it comes to the topic of divesting from fossil fuels in Norway? 

We have been working for an international Norwegian commitment to use pension fund as an active climate policy tool, and that the fund should pull out of all investments in fossil fuels by 2020. We are also working hard to stop further oil drilling both in the North Sea and the Arctic. Unfortunately, the current right-wing Norwegian government are very oil-friendly. 

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