The $1 trillion fund that Norway has amassed pumping oil and gas over the past two decades wants out of petroleum stocks.
Norway, which relies on oil and gas for about a fifth of economic output, would be less vulnerable to declining crude prices without its fund investing in the industry, the central bank said Thursday.
The divestment would mark the second major step in scrubbing the world’s biggest wealth fund of climate risk, after it sold most of its coal stocks.
“Our perspective here is to spread the risks for the state’s wealth,” Egil Matsen, the deputy central bank governor overseeing the fund, said in an interview in Oslo. “We can do that better by not adding oil-price risk.”
The plan would entail the fund, which controls about 1.5% of global stocks, dumping as much as $40 billion of shares in international giants such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. The Finance Ministry said it will study the proposal and decide what to do in “fall of 2018” at the earliest.
While the fund says the plan isn’t based on any particular view about the future of oil prices or the industry as a whole, it will likely add to pressure on producers already struggling with the growth of renewable energy supplies.
Built on the income that western Europe’s largest energy supplier has generated for more than 20 years, the fund’s investment decisions are guided by ethical rules encompassing human rights, some weapons production, the environment and tobacco.
Norway’s fossil-fuel investments are coming under increasing scrutiny from a public that aims to be a climate leader without jeopardizing one of the world’s highest standards of living.
The fund has doubled in value over the past five years and was just given the go-ahead to boost its stock holdings to 70 percent of its portfolio from 60 percent to help drive returns.