Solidarisk forvaltning av Oljefondet

Amit Srivastava er leder for India Resource Center og har blant annet samarbeidet tett med Attac Norge og våre lokallag i en nasjonal Coca- Cola-kampanje for å få slutt på selskapets monopol som leverandør av drikkevarer til studentsamskipnadene i Norge. Her skriver han om sine tanker om Oljefondet og bærekraftig utvikling.

Thoughts on the Norwegian Government Pension Fund

The Norwegian Pension Fund can play an active role in advancing sustainable development in the South. In fact, it is obligatory for the Pension Fund to play an active role in promoting sustainable development – because the source of the Pension Fund, petroleum, is at the center of the world’s greatest crisis, climate change.

While the primary purpose of the Pension Fund is to ensure that current wealth generated from petroleum exploitation benefits future generations in Norway, the Fund must also acknowledge that the life cycle of oil – extraction, refining, transportation and consumption – comes at a massive global cost, at the local level.Protester mot Coca-Cola i India

It is often those who are least responsible for the use of petroleum products – the poor and marginalized – who are the most impacted from the pollution of the petroleum industry. The Pension Fund must ensure that its investments of petroleum revenues abroad do not further degrade the quality of life of the poor and marginalized around the world. If anything, the Pension Fund’s investments should serve to alleviate the poverty that inflicts billions around the world today.

Invest in the public sector

The current financial crisis is a reminder to us all that private interests do not always equate with the interests of the society at large. As we see today, private institutions have undertaken huge risks in an attempt to realize greater profits, and when these risks have failed to materialize, the entire society is asked to pay the price. Socializing risks and privatizing profits is an unethical practice, and the Pension Fund should look at working with the public sector in the South which is more aligned with meeting sustainable development goals than private entities alone.

The Pension Fund should also abstain from investing in energy companies that continue to promote oil, coal and gas as the only solutions to meeting the developing worlds’ energy needs. While it may be ironic for a petroleum fund to reject investment in petroleum projects internationally, it is necessary and will send a strong message to the energy companies that the climate crisis is real and that if they want to access markets in the developing world, they should invest in renewable energies.

In India, for example, there is a great opportunity for partnering with the public sector which can lead to a win-win situation for all. The Indian government (like many other developing countries) is in the process of allowing private sector involvement in many industries that had previously been public. It is very possible for the Pension Fund to invest in such opportunities – by actually buying portions of public sector industries – and working with the public sector to strengthen the industry by bringing in expertise from Norway. A positive performance by the industry, in which the Pension Fund would be an investor and decision-maker, would appreciate the financial investment of the Pension Fund and the public sector as well.

There are a few key areas where such an investment by the Pension Fund could make a substantial difference, and where the need is the greatest.

Invest in renewable energy and infrastructure

One, the South has genuine energy needs that have not been met and private sector involvement only promises to increase the use of fossil fuels to meet the energy demands of the South. The Pension Fund could play an important key role in meeting the unmet energy demands of the South by partnering with the public sector and promoting renewable energies around the world. Solar and wind energies have remained largely unsustainable so far primarily because of the lack of investment in these technologies to make them economically viable. The Pension Fund’s involvement could be a significant boost to the development of such renewable energies in the developing South, where energy use will have to grow because too many remain without adequate energy. The appropriate alternative energy in an area is dependent on the area itself, and reasonable caution should be exercised to ensure that the development of a particular alternative energy, such as bio fuels, does not have dramatic secondary impacts, such as diverting food for fuel instead of nutrition.

The second key area where there is much scope for public sector engagement is in infrastructure (roads, bridges, public transportation, sewage, etc.). The Pension Fund could play a very significant role in investing in the development of the infrastructure which is a public entity. Leaving it to the private sector in places like India has meant that we now have toll roads and toll bridges – only those that can afford it can use it. This is not sustainable development.

Fundamental human rights cannot be commoditized

Third, we are witnessing the alarming trend of many private companies entering the arena of providing water to the public as they see great profits in controlling a rapidly declining natural resource – water. Water is essential to life, and meeting the basic water needs of a population cannot be left to the markets. The Pension Fund can play a tremendous role in the South by working with the public sector to develop and maintain water utility systems that provide people with their fundamental human right – access to clean water. Unfortunately, billions of people around the world do not have access to clean water.

While we feel that the Pension fund should, in the wake of the current economic crisis, re-examine its philosophy of investing in private entities abroad, we also recognize that it is impractical to expect the Pension Fund to completely move away from its investment in and engagement with private sector.

In addition to the exclusion of alcohol, tobacco and arms, there are certain areas we feel strongly that the Pension Fund should not invest in because they lead to a widening of the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Access to water is a fundamental human right, and the Pension Fund should not invest in private entities that will provide access to water by placing a tariff on water. In other words, a fundamental human right cannot be commoditized, and the Pension Fund should take a strong position on the privatization of water utilities in the South.

Similarly, the right to food is a fundamental human right, and the corporatization of the food production systems in developing countries leaves food security in the control of the private sector. Whenever possible, the Pension Fund should ensure that it is not investing in companies that encourage large, agribusiness based models of food production where large tracts of land are bought to produce commodities. Such a practice has been shown to displace farmers and communities by the thousands, and taking away food security from the hand of the farmers.

The precautionary principle

The Pension Fund should also adopt as central to its ethical guidelines the precautionary principle. The Precautionary principle, which was formalized in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, states that «In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.»

The Pension Fund should take a precautionary approach when choosing its investments. While the private sector is quick to ascertain that their projects are sound with no scientific uncertainty, it usually takes engagement with the communities where the projects are to be located to grasp the full nature of the impacts.

The Pension Fund should consider a consultative process with communities and their representatives in the developing countries in order to be able to better ascertain the full impacts of corporations and their activities. Setting up an advisory group comprising of such representatives may be a positive move forward.