Climate change has been highlighted this week as a major priority for Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, in statements coming from the top of the Nordic country’s new government as well as the head of the fund’s management operation.

At the “Zero Conference” event held in Oslo yesterday, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre spoke to politicians and business leaders about his desire for a net-zero goal for the NOK11.2trn (€1.2trn) Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG).

“The government wants the responsible management of the fund to have an overall long-term goal of net zero emissions from the companies the fund has invested in. It should not be controversial,” he said.

Though a proposal for the SWF to be given a 2050 net-zero goal for its investments is on the table, this has yet to be agreed politically.

Labour leader Støre, whose coalition government took office a month ago, said the fund was not a foreign policy or climate policy tool, and that the goal of the highest possible return within an acceptable risk remained unchanged.

“But the fund can take the lead in assessing climate risk in investments and influence companies’ behaviour in the green shift,” he said.

These remarks on the GPFG taking the lead in this respect come a day after Nicolai Tangen, the chief executive officer of Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) – which manages the SWF – declared climate risks and opportunities a top priority.

Opening a conference hosted by Norges Bank on its Oslo premises, Tangen said: “Today we’re going to talk about the topic which is at the very top of the priority list for the oil fund, which is the investment opportunities and risks from the climate change”.

The GPFG – which is the world’s largest SWF – has often drawn criticism for not doing enough to tackle climate change.

As recently as August this year, several economists and experts from around the world signed a joint article urging the fund to join the UN-convened Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance, whose members pledge to reduce portfolio greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Later that month, a government-commissioned report from an expert panel led by Martin Skancke, chair of the PRI board, recommended the fund effectively adopt a net-zero goal for greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, while the country’s finance minister agreed it was time for higher ambitions.

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