Statewide Activists Plan Strategy for CalPERS/CalSTRS Divestment
April 14, 2014 —Twenty-five divestment activists from all around California met this weekend in Encino to plan next steps in the campaign for fossil-fuel divestment of the two large state pension funds, CalSTRS for teachers and CalPERS for other public employees.
Alameda County Democrats Support Divestment
March 5, 2014 — This evening the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee adopted the resolution below, by unanimous vote, reports Janet Cox.
A substantively similar resolution was adopted in 2013 by the central committees of Ventura, Los Angeles, and Sacramento counties, and the Environmental Caucus of the California Democratic Party. The Alameda County Committee will submit this resolution to the whole party for approval at its Executive Board meeting in July.
Peralta Board of Trustees Votes to Divest
On December 10, 2013, the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to divest from fossil fuels. The Board adopted a resolution to "develop an official Board policy forthwith opposing any new direct investments in fossil-fuel companies," specifically the 200 companies on the Carbon Tracker list. The Board also supports divesting completely "at the earliest propitious moment within five years." 350.org members Ophir Bruck, Judy Pope, and Deborah Silvey spoke to the Board in support of the resolution. They are shown here at the meeting in Oakland with Board member Nicky Gonzalez Yuen (wearing cap).
The 30,000-student Peralta district, with campuses in Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda, has been at the forefront of the sustainability movement, mandating in 2007 to undertake dramatic reductions in its carbon footprint. On December 4, the Peralta Retirees Organization voted overwhelmingly to endorse divestment, providing additional support for the Board’s decision.
Peralta has a $200 million portfolio invested to provide supplemental health benefits for Peralta retirees. Last summer the Vice Chancellor for Finance carried out a financial impact study showing that fossil-fuel companies represent two percent of this portfolio, and he concluded that removing fossil fuels is a fiscally sound move for the district. The Peralta Retirement Board will meet in January to take action on this fund.
The Board of Trustees' vote follows the October decision to divest by the Foothill-De Anza Community College Foundation. Peralta joins seven other colleges and universities and more than 20 cities and counties that have made divestment commitments, including several others in California.
To keep global warming below 2°C, most coal, oil, and gas must remain underground, and yet these phantom assets exaggerate the current book value of fossil-fuel companies. As a result, climate change has recently been identified as an investment risk by CalPERS, the large California state pension fund. And there is mounting concern in the financial community as a whole about the wisdom of investing in the fossil-fuel industry for any long-term investments.
Progress in Peralta Colleges Divestment
On October 10 Deborah Silvey and Ginny Dwyer, members of the 350 BA Divestment Team, met with the Peralta Community College District Chancellor, the Vice Chancellor for Finance, and two trustees who are supportive of our divestment resolution. The meeting was a followup to an earlier meeting during which the Chancellor requested that the Vice Chancellor for Finance conduct a study on the impact of divesting Peralta's funds from fossil fuels. The study indicated a negligible effect of divestment from the fossil fuel companies currently in the portfolio. It was thus agreed that our resolution will be presented to the Retirement Board (responsible for these special funds) at their quarterly meeting in December in preparation for taking it to the Board of Trustees in January.
CalPERS Identifies Climate Change as Risk Factor
On Monday, September 16, the Board of Directors of the $260 billion California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest public pension fund in the United States, voted to include references to climate change in its newly adopted list of investment beliefs. CalPERS members from 350 Bay Area (Linda Rudolph and Deborah Silvey) and from 350 Sacramento (Megan Elsea) attended the meeting, along with several SEIU 1000 members, speaking in support of including climate change as a key investment risk factor.
This small but significant change in wording will pave the way for CalPERS to analyze and quantify the risks to its portfolio of climate change in general and of fossil-fuel investment in particular. It is a step that CalPERS took largely due to the ongoing, cooperative efforts of 350 Bay Area members Linda Rudolph and Gary Horvitz and 350 Sacramento member Martha Turner, working with 350.org and SEIU 1000.
By adopting this language, CalPERS formally acknowledges climate change as a financial risk factor, deliberately building the framework for that reality to be incorporated into risk analysis and financial management of the pension fund.
Here is the specific wording of key sections of the document :
Investment Belief 4: Long-term value creation requires effective management of three forms of capital: financial, physical and human.
Sub-belief: CalPERS may engage investee companies and external managers on their governance and sustainability issues, including: Environmental practices, including but not limited to climate change and natural resource availability.
Investment Belief 9: Risk to CalPERS is multi-faceted and not fully captured through measures such as volatility or tracking error.
Sub-belief: As a long-term investor, CalPERS must consider risk factors, for example climate change and natural resource availability, that emerge slowly over long time periods, but could have a material impact on company or portfolio returns.
The full list of CalPERS investment beliefs can be found here.
California Teachers Association to Consider CalSTRS Divestment
The California Teachers Association holds its quarterly meeting in Los Angeles October 25-27, and several active members will be presenting a resolution to the CTA that CalSTRS divest from fossil fuels. Gary Waayers of SanDiego350.org and Joe Waino, a San Diego Education Association Site Representative, plan to do a presentation of the resolution to the CTA Retirement Committee, with the expectation that it will be referred to the CTA General Assembly for a vote of approval on the 27th.
Gary reports that most of the 760 CTA state representatives have not yet been exposed to the concept of divestment from fossil fuels. It is important to educate as many of them as possible before the meeting—and to get some locals to endorse it.
If you are a member of the CTA, please bring this issue up at your local meeting for endorsement, in preparation for the statewide meeting. For more information, please contact Gary Waayers at email@example.com.
The CalPERS Campaign has launched!
The CalPERS campaign is gathering steam. The California Public Employees Retirement System is the largest public pension fund in the country, managing $250 billion in assets and investing $12 billion in carbon companies targeted by Go Fossil Free.
We need you and your great ideas as we launch outreach, communications, letter writing, petitioning, and other actions.
- People passionate about divestment
- Active or retired CalPERS members
- People with research, organizing, writing, web based campaigning, and web site development skills
- People knowledgeable about finance or investing
Help us build our network of contacts for the campaign.
If you know or can contact CalPERS members (one or many!), unions that represent CalPERS members, or elected official at the local or state level, we need to hear from you. All contacts help.
Contact: Deborah Silvey, firstname.lastname@example.org, 510.333.8513, to volunteer or share contacts helpful to us.
Spread the word!
Divestment at the Peralta Sustainability Fair
The divestment team had a great time at the Peralta Community Colleges sustainability fair at Laney College on April 25. There was a good crowd of students and faculty strolling past the many booths, listening to the live music and sampling delicious foods by local caterers. The sun even came out to shine on our efforts.
We got a lot of traffic at our divestment booth, mainly students but also faculty and other staff. Some professors encouraged students to attend by offering extra credit to those who collected stickers from people at the various booths. This gentle bribery resulted in many nice conversations and we collected over 200 signatures on our Peralta divestment petition.
A big round of applause to Nancy Yates and Deborah Silvey of the Peralta divestment group, who with Robert Silvey put all this together. We also had the invaluable help of Ophir and Victoria, two students from the UC Berkeley divestment campaign, who joined us, grabbed clipboards and went through the fair holding conversations and looking for future leaders of the divestment campaign at Peralta.
Our divestment goal is the sale of stock and bonds from the
200 top oil, gas, and coal companies.
We are working with colleges, universities, public pension funds, cities, and faith based organizations. We want them to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies and divest within 5 years.
We can help investors understand that, as we make the inevitable transition to a low-carbon world, their fossil fuel investments will plunge. Analysts such as businessman/environmentalist Paul Gilding point out that what was primarily an ecological issue is now an economic one.
In fact, the latest version of the Carbon Tracker report demonstrates that a “carbon bubble” endangers investment portfolios, as fossil fuels become stranded assets.
We will keep building the pressure through grassroots activism until these companies:
- Stop exploring for new fossil energy
- Stop lobbying against the clean energy transition
- Pledge to keep 80% of their reserves underground
We’re joining students fighting for their future at over 300 campuses around the country.
We work with specific organizations for divestment. Our primary campaigns currently are CalPERS (the largest public pension fund in the country, with $11 billion invested in the 200 worst fossil fuel companies), Peralta Community Colleges, and the San Francisco Pension Fund. We're also working with the student divestment campaigns at UC Berkeley and San Francisco State.We're meeting with trustees, researching investment portfolios, writing resolutions and reaching out to student activists.
Other campaigns are in the works—stay tuned.
We need all kinds of help, including but not limited to researching investment portfolios and planning creative street theater. Please join us!
For more information, contact Deborah Silvey.