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World’s largest sovereign fund asked to divest from RWE, Enel

New rules ask Norway’s sovereign fund to exit investments in companies producing over 10m tons of coal per year

The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund after a decision by Norway’s parliament yesterday will have to sell shares in companies which are operating over 10GW of coal-fired capacity or producing over 20 million tons of coal annually, among them European utility giants RWE and Enel.

Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) currently worth NKr9.09trn ($1.05trn) and based on the nation’s oil and gas wealth, had previously already been asked to stop investing into companies that generate more than 30% of their revenue with coal.

The sharpened new rules with absolute criteria mean that the fund needs to pull out some NKr50bn of coal-related investments.

According to German NGO Urgewald this will mean the fund needs to exit its investments in large international firms such as RWE, Enel, Uniper, Glencore, or BHP Biliton.

“It is great to see Norway divesting some of the biggest enemies of the Paris Climate Agreement. And we are happy that the Pension Fund has now adopted 2 of the 3 coal exclusion criteria we put forward in 2015,” said Heffa Schücking, director of Urgewald.

The changed investment criteria come as RWE is gearing up to become one of Europe’s largest renewable energy producers once a deal with rival E.ON is approved by competition authorities, which will bundle the renewable generation assets of E.ON and RWE unit Innogy under the roof of a new RWE.

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The German utility has been in the mire of public anger, though, by stubbornly defending its coal and lignite operations and the clearing of the Hambach Forest near Cologne for that.

Enel despite its coal activities is one of the world’s largest operators of renewable energy.

The GPFG in April had already been given green light by the Norwegian government to start backing unlisted renewables projects.

Despite yesterday’s decision, there is pressure for the fund to completely move out of the oil and gas sector – despite its origin.

Currently, the fund can still be invested in so-called integrated oil and gas companies, whose operations go beyond upstream extraction, such as Norway’s Equinor. The upstream part accounts for only 20% of the oil and gas sector, Greenpeace Norway says.

The NGO also demands that the fund should leave companies that invest in new coal-fired power plants, which so far has not yet happened.

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