Swedish pension fund sells out of six firms it says breach Paris climate deal

OSLO (Reuters) - Sweden’s largest national pension fund, AP7, has sold its investments in six companies that it says violate the Paris climate agreement, a decision environmentalists believe is the first of its kind.

AP7, which provides pensions to 3.5 million Swedes, said on Thursday it had sold out of ExxonMobil XOM.N, Gazprom GAZP.MM, TransCanada Corp TRP.TO, Westar WR.N, Entergy ETR.N and Southern Corp, and would no longer invest in companies that operate in breach of the Paris climate accord.

“Since the last screening in December 2016, the Paris agreement to the U.N. Climate Convention is one of the norms we include in our analysis,” the company said in a statement.

AP7 said ExxonMobil, Westar, Southern Corp and Entergy had fought against introducing climate legislation in the United States. It also criticized Gazprom for looking for oil in the Russian Arctic and TransCanada for building large-scale pipelines in North America.

ExxonMobil said that it “respectfully disagrees with the decision of AP7, which has not communicated to us its evaluation process.

“We have been vocal in our support of the Paris climate agreement, which we believe is an effective global framework for mitigating the risk of climate change,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Entergy said it was disappointed that an investor had divested and said AP7’s decision was “unfortunate in light of the fact that the rationale for the decision seems to be unfounded.

“Entergy has aggressively advocated for smart carbon policies for more than a decade,” said the company in an emailed statement. “In 2016, our CO2 emissions were approximately 20 percent below our year 2000 emissions.”

The other companies were not immediately available for comment.

Environmental campaigners welcomed the decision and called on other investors to follow suit.

“Responsible investments are key for the world to reach the goals in the Paris agreement, and AP7’s action today is an important step in the right direction,” said Martin Norman, the head of Greenpeace Nordic’s Sustainable Finance Campaign

“We expect other global investors, like the Norwegian wealth fund, to do the same,” he told Reuters, adding AP7’s decision was the first known divestment by an investor based on the Paris agreement.

Norway’s $950 billion sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, has ethical ambitions. Its chief executive told Reuters on June 2 the fund would ask the banks in which it has invested to disclose how their lending contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

Editing by Mark Potter, Larry King