Today’s vote in the Norwegian Parliament marks a truly historic event: It is the first time in history that all our politicians — left-leaning and right-leaning — have come together to take a stand against coal. The parliament unanimously voted for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund to classify most companies involved in coal mining and coal-fired utilities as unacceptable investment options.
Not only is this a unique achievement, it is a step in the right direction and a signal to leaders across the globe. The Government Pension Fund is the world’s largest wealth fund not privately owned and the new measures means that according to Greenpeace Nordic’s and Urgewald’s initial estimate, 120 companies will be targeted for a divestment totaling 8 billion US dollars
The decision means that the fund will not invest in any company that uses coal for more than 30 % of its activity. This includes both coal mining and coal-fired power plants. However, the 30 % criteria saves some of the bigger utilities and large scale mining companies from exclusion, simply because they are so large that coal does not make up more than 30 % of their business. Luckily, they can still be forced out at a later point due to additional rules being added on how the fund works.
This is one of the single biggest coal divestment decisions so far, and it should be a turning point for how investors think about coal in the future. The world has paid attention, and this paves the way for some exciting, forward-thinking initiatives.
It has taken many years of hard work to convince politicians to act on what we all know by now: that coal is the worst polluter out there. The decision to divest is a testament to the tireless efforts made by Greenpeace and many other allied NGOs across the world. It is an encouraging sign that decision-makers are finally starting to own up to their responsibilities to us and the planet.
Owning responsibility for how we approach climate change and its effects is what everyone will look for this November when the negotiations start in Paris for a global climate agreement. The Norwegian Parliament has shown that, regardless of political affiliation and ideology, it is possible to unite and take a strong stand against the worst causes of climate change.
As we head to towards the G7 meeting in Bavaria, today’s decision by the Norwegian government should be a wake-up call to the world’s top emitters, that are attending the summit. These seven countries have not done enough to significantly reduce their CO2 emissions and to make a fair contribution to prevent climate change. At the summit, the G7 needs to decide to switch to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
Hopefully, the delegates and ministers that travel to France will also accept our government’s challenge and take a similar stand against coal.
Johan Hammerstrøm is a communications manager with Greenpeace Nordic
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