The latest year, and especially this fall, the financial sector has in many ways indicated that fossil investments are more disputed than ever. It is to early to predict if this is the start of a movement – however it is clear that several large financial players have made quite bold statements and actions.
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund was one of the first large funds to announce that they no longer would invest their USD 860 million in fossil fuels. It was proclaimed in September 2014 and has so far been a good judgement since oil prices steadily has been going down ever since. In December, oil prices had fallen to levels not seen in the latest seven years. In April this year it was revealed that the large bank/advisor HSBC warned their clients that fossil fuel companies in a near future might become “economically non-viable”. HSBC recommended clients to divest to avoid risk and not to be “on the wrong side of history”.
Our neighbours to the west, whose economy has been built by oil and gas, are now working to taking new positions in the divestment movement. Norway’s $890 billion government pension fund will sell off many of its investments related to coal and it is estimated that this affects 122 companies worldwide. Marthe Skaar, a spokeswoman for Norges Bank Investment Management, which manages the huge Norwegian fund, said its goal was “safeguarding and building financial wealth for future generations in Norway.” Its reasons for divesting include “long-established climate-change risk-management expectations,”.
But not only financial companies are making these decisions: For example Oslo is the first capital city that has announced its intentions to divest all pension planning from all fossil fuels — coal, oil, and gas. In Sweden, amongst others Örebro and Uppsala are following the same patternwhile the capital Stockholm is still only "reviewing" its holdings.
During the fall, Sweden’s AP pension funds have agreed to coordinate carbon footprint reporting and their private equivalents are facing increasing pressure as they are asked to agree on a common way to report their carbon dioxide emissions – otherwise it will be legislated. From banks in Sweden, Nordea stands out as they have committed to stop investing in companies where more than 75 per cent of their revenue derives from sales of coal products.
It is hard to make predictions of what will happen in 2016 and forward, but what we do know is that reaching the goal of maximum 2°C rise in temperature will require known oil reserves to stay in the ground. One UK study concluded that less than a fifth of the world’s existing coal reserves can be burnt, a third of existing oil reserves and half of gas reserves must also stay in the ground if the world wants to avert extremes of climate change in the most cost-effective way. In accordance with agreements in Paris, more financial institutions have a responsibility to present their solutions.