Norway’s Biggest Pension Fund Dumps All Tar Sands/Oil Sands Investment
Norway’s biggest pension fund, Kommunal Landspensjonskasse (KLP), has sold off US$58 million in stocks and bonds in Canadian tar sands/oil sands companies and declared it won’t back companies that draw more than 5% of their revenue from bitumen production.
“By going coal- and oil sands-free, we are sending a strong message on the urgency of shifting from fossil to renewable energy,” CEO Sverre Thornes said in a statement. CBC adds that the $94-billion fund made the move after concluding “that the oil production in the Fort McMurray region was akin to the coal industry in its harmful impacts to the environment.”
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“Both are very high in emissions in producing energy or fuel, and we’ve decided to treat them similarly,” said KLP’s head of responsible investment, Jeanett Bergan. “We are seeing a lot of signs in society that say, ‘This is not what the future will look like.'”
The fund added that the decision was “great news” for its investors, since tar sands/oil sands operators are inconsistent with the targets for average global warming in the 2015 Paris Agreement, states a Canadian Press dispatch republished by the Globe and Mail.
In the wake of KLP’s decision, “Calgary-based Cenovus Energy Inc., Suncor Energy Inc., Imperial Oil Ltd., and Husky Energy Inc., along with Russia-based Tatneft PAO, are now to be excluded from investment consideration,” CP adds. Shares in all four companies have lost value over the last year, with Cenovus stock down by nearly 10%, Suncor and Imperial by more than 20%, and Husky by more than 55%.
CP says the Alberta fossils have been hurting “as growth in oil sands output outstripped pipeline capacity, leading to steep price discounts in Canada and legislated production curtailments in Alberta.” But Greenpeace Canada Senior Energy Strategist Keith Stewart said the announcement means “institutional investors are abandoning high-carbon investments because they can see where the puck is heading.” (CP makes no mention of Alberta’s continuing scramble to pitch a product that is more expensive to produce and less convenient for refiners to process than competing grades of crude oil.)ˆ
CBC’s coverage touts reductions that tar sands/oil sands producers say they’ve achieved in the greenhouse gases they emit per barrel of oil produced—Cenovus by one-third in the last decade, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. by 29%, along with a 78% cut in climate-busting methane. From its reaction, KLP might just have noticed that the downstream carbon pollution from using those companies’ products as directed exceeds their production emissions several times over.
“Of course, there are a lot of efforts in doing things better all the time,” Bergan told CBC. “At some point, you just have to take one more step and say this is not part of the future. This is not part of the solution.”
She added that KLP considered environmental impacts like water use and land disturbance alongside the tar sands/oil sands’ greenhouse gas emissions. “It’s kind of a holistic approach. We are thinking, can we invest this money otherwise and invest more in other companies that are…more sustainable?”
CBC notes that KLP’s announcement came just two days after Norwegian state fossil Equinor, formerly Statoil, began operations at its massive Johan Sverdrup offshore oil megaproject, which is expected to continue producing over the next five decades. “It’s understandable that it could be viewed as a paradox in times like these,” said Klaus Mohn, economics professor and rector at the University of Stavanger, in the country’s oil capital. “But Norway has stubbornly maintained a separation between its oil policy on one side and climate policy on the other.”
In an echo of Canadian fossils’ hyper-focus on production emissions, Bloomberg says Equinor is spinning the Sverdrup project as relatively low-carbon, noting that it draws electricity for production from a national grid dominated by hydropower. “We’re celebrating the opening of the Johan Sverdrup oil field. But what about the climate?” the company asks on its website.