KJAER’S GREEN CREDENTIALS date back to long before 1997, when
he began building Norges Bank Investment Management, which
runs Norway’s oil-rich sovereign wealth fund. He grew up in
Tonsberg, a small town 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Oslo.
As a high school student in the 1970s, when Norway was making
world-class oil discoveries that would make it one of the planet’s
richest nations, Kjaer says he started to worry about humanity’s
consumption of finite resources. He wrote a 60-page paper on,
as he puts it, “the fallacy that you need economic growth to build
a good society.” While studying at the University of Oslo, he was
elected as a candidate from the Green Party to chair a board that
represented student interests.
NBIM’s reserves increased from $25 billion to more than
$400 billion during Kjaer’s 11 years there. (They’ve since bal-
looned to more than $1 trillion.) During that time, Kjaer also
became chairman of the Center for International Climate and
Environmental Research, Norway’s leading institute for climate
research, which would later emerge as a crucial foundation for
the development of green bonds, he says.
Along the way, Kjaer burnished his reputation in the
investment world. In 2005 he was part of a group assembled by
then- Secretary-General Kofi Annan to draft the United Nations’
Principles for Responsible Investment, an early foray into
environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment.
Henrik Syse, head of corporate governance at the
Norwegian oil fund in the mid-2000s, says it was obvious from
early on how seriously Kjaer took his responsibilities as one of
the world’s largest investors. “His deep-seated engagement on
climate issues has grown naturally from that awareness, and not
least from his experience in seeing the sort of difference that
Kjaer worries about the long-term effect of climate change on his grandchildren: “Looking into their eyes, I ask myself, ‘What future are they going to inherit from us?’ ”
62 BLOOMBERG MARKETS