Brown signs SB 185: Divest coal!

Governor Jerry BrownGovernor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 185 last week. Our two state pension funds are now required to purge their portfolios of that most pernicious of fossil fuels, coal. It's time to celebrate!

The enactment of SB 185 is an enormous step forward for the divestment movement—in fact, for the entire climate movement—because CalSTRS and CalPERS are the largest state pension funds in the country, larger than any public funds worldwide other than a handful at the national level. It's an inspiring example, and we can expect other institutions and organizations to follow, beginning with New York and Massachusetts. California is again clearing the path for more reluctant states and nations in the struggle for a habitable planet.

Next we must divest the rest. Oil and gas companies are bad investments too: bad for human health, bad for the environment, and bad for the portfolio. There is no reason for our state funds to continue holding Chevron and Exxon and Shell stocks and bonds. The emissions from these companies' products are killing people and exacerbating the dangerous rise in global temperatures. We must move to a non-carbon, renewable energy economy as soon as possible, and complete divestment from fossil fuels is one important strategy in that transition.

Many thanks

So as we celebrate we want to thank all our allies, the many people involved in this triumph. Thanks to President pro Tempore Kevin de León of Los Angles for introducing SB 185 in the California Senate and pushing it through to passage, along with the other bills in this year's historic climate package. Thanks to Assembly Member Rob Bonta of Alameda for shepherding the bill through the Assembly, and all the other legislators who cosponsored and voted aye.

And thanks to Governor Jerry Brown for signing SB 185 into law, taking strong action to build on his signing SB 350 Wednesday and to back up his recent warnings on climate change. Speaking at the Vatican in July, Brown said:

There are tipping points, feedback loops. This is not some linear set of problems that we can predict. We have to take measures against an uncertain future which may well be something no one ever wants. We are talking about extinction. We are talking about climate regimes that have not been seen for tens of millions of years. We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way.

We're also on our way to doing the right thing. Tipping points and feedback loops can move the world in a beneficial direction, too. And each person and organization working to pass SB 185 has put a little more weight on the green side of the balance.

But our allies are not just the politicians who carried the ball over the line. We also want to thank the many activists and concerned citizens who have made a difference in the long campaign, including these organizations (a partial list):

  • American Lung Association
  • Asian Pacific Environmental Network
  • California Federation of Teachers
  • California League of Conservation Voters
  • California Nurses Association
  • California Student Sustainability Coalition
  • Environment California
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Public Health Institute
  • SEIU1000
  • Sierra Club

Thanks, too, to 350.org and its dedicated staff—especially Brett Fleishman, Zoë Wong-Weissman, and Carla West—for their work reaching out, online and in person, to legislators and activists. Thanks to Dr. Linda Rudolph of the Center for Climate Change and Health for making the case for public health. And thanks to RL Miller, chair of the California Democratic Party environmental caucus, for strategy and advice and valuable contacts.

Janet Cox worked tirelessly to coordinate the overall Fossil Free California/350 Bay Area campaign for SB 185. And other local 350 groups around the state, notably 350 Sacramento, provided publicity and organization and marchers for the cause. In fact, each of you who spoke at a CalPERS or CalSTRS meeting, who wrote to a Senator or met with an Assembly Member, who attended a rally, or who signed a petition has a share in this victory. Thank you, everyone!

Next steps

Now it's on to other challenges.

  • The crucial climate talks in Paris in early December—with marches and other events leading up to the hoped-for multinational agreement
  • Total fossil fuel divestment for the state pension funds
  • Divesting cities and counties and faith groups around the state
  • Providing information to individuals who want to divest their own portfolios

There is much more to do. We'll start with this: Divest CalPERS. Divest CalSTRS. Divest the rest!

Cross-posted from Fossil Free California.

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