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Oslo divests from coal companies

City becomes first capital in the world to join fossil fuel divestment movement, following demonstration of 1,000 people in February

The City of Oslo is pulling its investment from coal companies due to the environmental damage caused by the fuel.
The City of Oslo is pulling its investment from coal companies due to the environmental damage caused by the fuel. Photograph: Sandro Luini / www.sandroluini.c/Alamy

The City of Oslo has committed to selling off its investments in coal companies, citing the environmental damage caused by the fuel. It joins almost 40 cities around the world, including San Francisco and Oxford, UK, in dumping fossil fuel stocks but is the first capital city to do so.

Olso’s finance commissioner, Eirik Lae Solberg, told Norway’s state broadcaster NRK: “We are pulling ourselves out of coal companies, because power generation based on coal is one of the most environmentally harmful in the energy sector. We want to use our investments to promote more environmentally-friendly energy and a more environmentally-friendly society.”

The move means $7m of coal investments in Olso council’s pension fund will be moved out of the sector. “It’s not huge sums involved, but we still want to send a clear signal,” said Lae Solberg.

The move is part of a fast-growing climate change campaign that has already persuaded 180 institutions, worth $50bn (£33bn) and including local authorities, universities and churches, to sell off their investments in coal, oil and gas.

A series of analyses have shown that there are already three times more fossil fuels in proven reserves than can be burned if catastrophic global warming is to be avoided, as world leaders have pledged. The campaigners argue that the trillions of dollars companies are still spending on exploration for even more fossil fuels is a danger to both the climate and investors’ capita.

In February, 1,000 people demonstrated in Oslo to demand divestment. “This is a victory for our hard work, and sends a strong signal to the government that is currently reviewing the investments of the national oil fund. We will regard it as poor leadership if the government choose to take a less powerful stand than Oslo when deciding their own strategy for a sustainable future,” said campaign group Future in our Hands.

Norway’s national oil fund, built on the proceeds of the country’s large oil and gas resources, is worth $850bn and is the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. In February, it announced it had dumped 32 coal companies on environmental grounds. It is currently considering wider divestment from fossil fuels.

While many of the universities, churches and other institutions that have divested are in the US, where the campaign began, Scandinavia has seen a series of major fund managers divest, including the region’s biggest fund manager Nordea.

On Monday, hundreds of thousands of academics, engineers and lawyers in Denmark announced they will vote on divesting their €32bn (£23bn) pension funds from fossil fuels.

By: Damian Carrington

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