Category Archives: Divestment in fossil-fuels

World’s biggest sovereign wealth fund dumps dozens of dirty energy companies

Repost from The Guardian
[Editor: significant quote: “Note: The first line originally said 40 coal mining companies had been dropped, instead of the correct number of 32.  A further eight companies were dropped due to their greenhouse gas emissions: five tar sand producers, two cement companies and one coal-based electricity generator.”   My emphasis.  – RS]

World’s biggest sovereign wealth fund dumps dozens of coal companies

Norway’s giant fund removes investments made risky by climate change and other environmental concerns, including coal, oil sands, cement and gold mining

By Damian Carrington, 5 February 2015
Part of a mining platform at a disused coal mine in Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway. The country’s £556bn sovereign wealth fund, GPFG, has published its divestment details in its first report on responsible investing. Photograph: Alamy
Part of a mining platform at a disused coal mine in Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway. The country’s £556bn sovereign wealth fund, GPFG, has published its divestment details in its first report on responsible investing. Photograph: Alamy

The world’s richest sovereign wealth fund removed 32 coal mining companies from its portfolio in 2014, citing the risk they face from regulatory action on climate change.

Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), worth $850bn (£556bn) and founded on the nation’s oil and gas wealth, revealed a total of 114 companies had been dumped on environmental and climate grounds in its first report on responsible investing, released on Thursday. The companies divested also include tar sands producers, cement makers and gold miners.

As part of a fast-growing campaign, over $50bn in fossil fuel company stocks have been divested by 180 organisations on the basis that their business models are incompatible with the pledge by the world’s governments to tackle global warming. But the GPFG is the highest profile institution to divest to date.

A series of analyses have shown that only a quarter of known and exploitable fossil fuels can be burned if temperatures are to be kept below 2C, the internationally agreed danger limit. Bank of England governor Mark Carney, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and others have warned investors that action on climate change would leave many current fossil fuel assets worthless.

“Our risk-based approach means that we exit sectors and areas where we see elevated levels of risk to our investments in the long term,” said Marthe Skaar, spokeswoman for GPFG, which has $40bn invested in fossil fuel companies. “Companies with particularly high greenhouse gas emissions may be exposed to risk from regulatory or other changes leading to a fall in demand.”

She said GPFG had divested from 22 companies because of their high carbon emissions: 14 coal miners, five tar sand producers, two cement companies and one coal-based electricity generator. In addition, 16 coal miners linked to deforestation in Indonesia and India were dumped, as were two US coal companies involved in mountain-top removal. The GPFG did not reveal the names of the companies or the value of the divestments.

“One of the largest global investment institutions is winding down its coal interests, as it is clear the business model for coal no longer works with western markets already in a death spiral, and signs of Chinese demand peaking,” said James Leaton, research director at the Carbon Tracker Initiative, which analyses the risk of fossil fuel assets being stranded.

A report by Goldman Sachs in January also called time on the use of coal for electricity generation: “Just as a worker celebrating their 65th birthday can settle into a more sedate lifestyle while they look back on past achievements, we argue that thermal coal has reached its retirement age.” Goldman Sachs downgraded its long term price forecast for coal by 18%.

On Wednesday, a group of medical organisations called for the health sector to divest from fossil fuels as it had from tobacco. The £18bn Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s biggest funders of medical research , said “climate change is one of the greatest challenges to global health” but rejected the call to divest or reveal its total fossil fuel holdings.

In January, Axa Investment Managers warned the reputation of fossil fuel companies were at immediate risk from the divestment campaign and Shell unexpectedly backed a shareholder demand to assess whether the company’s business model is compatible with global goals to tackle climate change.

Note: The first line originally said 40 coal mining companies had been dropped, instead of the correct number of 32. A further eight companies were dropped due to their greenhouse gas emissions: five tar sand producers, two cement companies and one coal-based electricity generator.
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    At least one major oil company will turn its back on fossil fuels

    Repost from The Guardian

    At least one major oil company will turn its back on fossil fuels, says scientist

    Jeremy Leggett, former industry adviser, warns over plunging commodity prices and soaring costs of risky energy projects

    Jeremy Leggett
    Jeremy Leggett: ‘One of the oil companies will break ranks and this time it is going to stick.’ Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

    By Terry Macalister, 11 January 2015

    The oil price crash coupled with growing concerns about global warming will encourage at least one of the major oil companies to turn its back on fossil fuels in the near future, predicts an award-winning scientist and former industry adviser.

    Dr Jeremy Leggett, who has had consultations on climate change with senior oil company executives over 25 years, says it will not be a rerun of the BP story when the company launched its “beyond petroleum” strategy and then did a U-turn.

    “One of the oil companies will break ranks and this time it is going to stick,” he said. “The industry is facing plunging commodity prices and soaring costs at risky projects in the Arctic, deepwater Brazil and elsewhere.

    “Oil companies are also realising it is no long morally defensible to ignore the consequences of climate change.”

    Leggett, now a solar energy entrepreneur and climate campaigner, points to Total of France as the kind of group that could abandon carbon fuels in the same way that E.ON, the German utility, announced plans before Christmas to spin off coal and gas interests and concentrate its future growth on renewables.

    Pressure on the energy industry to pull out of fossil fuels has grown in recent months with a campaign for pension funds to disinvest from coal, oil and gas.

    A new report published this week by researchers at University College London deepened the message that vast amounts of oil in the Middle East, coal in the US and gas in Russia cannot be exploited if the global temperature rise is to be held at the 2C level safety limit agreed by countries.

    Leggett, who once conducted research into shale funded by BP and Shell, chairs Carbon Tracker Initiative, a thinktank which aims to raise awareness among key decision-makers about the risks that fossil fuel investments pose to wider financial stability. He believes the current 50% slump in the price of Brent crude will cause the US shale boom to go bust with potentially alarming consequences for the financial system.

    “Many of the shale drillers have been feasting on junk bond finance, which was so easy when oil prices were above $100 (£66) but with prices at $50 confidence is going to collapse,” he said. “Should the shale narrative evaporate then it is going to be very embarrassing for all sorts of political promoters of the industry, including George Osborne.”

    Leggett said that despite the price collapse due to oversupply, he remained convinced the “peak oil” theory that supplies will eventually be unable to meet demand remains intact.

    This is not because there are not the oil or gas reserves in the ground to meet future growth, but because they are too costly and environmentally dangerous to produce, he argues.

    “I would say to both the utility industry and the oil and gas industry: its game over, guys,” he said. “You have got to identify the point at which it’s all going to be thoroughly changed and you have got to map back from it.

    “You have to think strategically. The point to map back from is zero carbon in the energy system, not the electricity system, by 2050, because more than 100 governments want that in the [next UN climate change] treaty being prepared for signing in Paris.”

    But he also believes the energy industry is privately aware of the problems as it watches its own costs of fossil fuel extraction going up while the costs of solar and other new technologies are coming down.

    Leggett, who plans to stands down as chairman of the highly successful Solarcentury renewable business he founded to focus on climate change campaigning, holds what he calls “friendly critic” sessions with the fossil fuel sector these days. The tone of the meetings has changed significantly over the past two years, he said.

    “Before it was know your enemy. Now it’s: ‘Crikey. A lot of this may be coming true on our watch. What shall we do about it?’ There are top-to-bottom strategic reviews going on in E.ON but in other companies as well, utility and oil and gas. So it will be really interesting to see which is the first of the oil and gas companies to break from the pack, although I fear BP and Shell are going backwards not forwards on carbon.”

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