Norway’s US$1.3-trillion sovereign wealth fund is following through on its threat to drop investments in Canadian tar sands/oil sands production, with four Alberta fossils showing up among the 15 companies the fund blacklisted last year, the Globe and Mail reports.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL), Cenovus Energy, Imperial Oil, and Suncor Energy all fell off Norway’s list, “sending yet another message that the era of Big Oil is coming to an end and the future belongs to renewable energy players,” the Globe and Mail reports.
“We divest from companies where we no longer want to be a shareholder for ethical or sustainability reasons,” Norges Bank declared. “By not investing in these companies, we reduce our exposure to unacceptable risks.”
The fund first announced its blacklist last May.
The Globe’s European bureau chief Eric Reguly says it’s “easy to accuse the fund of blatant hypocrisy”—it’s “fabulous wealth” traces back to Norway’s own oil and gas industry, and the decision ignores what Reguly (somewhat charitably) calls Canadian fossils’ “credible efforts” to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.
“But never mind,” Reguly writes. “The four remain big emitters of greenhouse gases—they had to go. Some significant Japanese and European investors have already ditched their oil sands investments, and others will follow.” Last May, the Globe reported on an annual sustainability scorecard from the World Economic Forum that ranked Canada 28th and lacking in consistent movement in the transition to a more secure, affordable energy future.
Now, “the trend is clear and unsettling” for fossils everywhere, but particularly in the tar sands/oil sands, Reguly says. “Vanishing investors will make it harder for them to raise capital, boosting the cost of doing business. As their market values fall, index funds that seek out companies with big market values will have to give them a pass,” while rising carbon prices “will intensify the misery”. And reducing production emissions “can only go so far”, when by far the majority of the fossil industry’s carbon pollution occurs when its product reaches its final destination and is used as directed.
Reguly cites Vancouver-based Teck Resources as one company that is trying to sell off its tar sands/oil sands investment. But “unloading it won’t be easy in a market that is becoming aggressively anti-oil sands.” Other colossal fossils like BP are trying to shift their image and their operations from Big Oil to Big Energy, following a small number of companies that have made the switch so far.
“Can the Canadian oil sands companies pull off similar transformations?” Reguly asks. “Not easily, since they are well behind in the renewable energy game. But what choice do they have but to try? Norway’s decision to banish them is not a one-off punishment. Their shares will remain in the doghouse unless they realize that the oil sands are a sunset—and unloved—industry.”