By MARK LEWIS
STAVANGER, Norway — Norway’s $1 trillion wealth fund, the biggest of its kind in the world, will begin dumping shares in oil and gas companies, but stopped short of barring major producers like ExxonMobil and Chevron.
The move was hailed by environmental activists as a sign that the global economy is increasingly moving away from fossil fuels toward cleaner energy.
The financial impact, however, may be relatively limited. The move will focus on companies that trade solely in exploration and production rather than the integrated oil giants, which do everything from searching for fossil fuels to selling them to consumers.
The fund is looking to sell some $7.5 billion in shares in 134 energy companies over time.
The Norwegian government said its motivation was not climate activism but financial. The fund, somewhat ironically, derives its income from Norway’s booming oil and gas industry. So reinvesting those proceeds in other sectors is considered a way to keep the money safe should oil and gas prices fall.
“The objective is to reduce the aggregate oil price risk on the whole Norwegian economy,” Minister of Finance Siv Jensen told The Associated Press. “The Norwegian state is highly exposed to oil.”
Tax receipts from oil production have made Norway rich. They underpin generous welfare provisions. And a hefty proportion is siphoned off into the fund, which was conceived as a pension kitty for the country’s 5.3 million inhabitants.
Mark Campanale, executive director of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a think tank on climate issues, says Friday’s decision is more significant than when the fund sold off its shares in coal companies.