OSLO, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Norway’s ruling parties have agreed to study whether its $840 billion wealth fund, itself built on oil revenues, should pull out of investing in oil, gas and coal for environmental reasons, the Progress Party said on Friday.
The minority government and two small opposition parties agreed to set up an independent panel to study the issue and present its findings next year, potentially heralding one of the biggest changes for the fund since it was set up in 1990.
The agreement also torpedoes a proposal by the opposition Labour Party that would have required the fund to pull out of coal firms relatively quickly, a motion that was gaining support until the deal between the government and its outside backers.
The fund, which owns more than 1 percent of all global shares, is one of the biggest investors in the energy sector and had about $43 billion in oil and gas stocks at the end of the third quarter, it said earlier.
Royal Dutch Shell, BG and BP were all included in its top 10 equity holdings and 8.6 percent of its equity portfolio was in oil and gas.
“This panel will study the advantages and disadvantages of the fund’s investments in fossil fuels,” Progress Party parliamentary group leader Harald Nesvik told Reuters.
“It won’t just consider withdrawing, it will look at the impact of a decision not to hold any shares in the sector.”
Progress and the Conservatives rule in a minority and rely on the centrist Liberal and Christian Democrats for support.
Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest, regularly excludes companies or sectors from its investment universe if its ethics council deems that a particular activity is unethical.
It does not invest in tobacco producers and makers of certain weapons, like cluster bombs and nuclear arms. It has also excluded some of the world’s biggest miners, accusing them of causing severe environmental damage.
$1 = 6.0503 Norwegian krones Reporting by Joachim Dagenborg; Editing by Catherine Evans