This post is by Elise Miller of San Mateo, a CalPERS member. To join Elise in petitioning the CalPERS board to divest, click here.
In 1998, I retired from San Diego State University and as a state employee for 16 years, became a proud member of CalPERS, the California Public Employees' Retirement System—at $301 billion, one of the largest such funds in the nation. Today, I was stunned and saddened to find out that my pension money is funding oil, gas, and coal and blocking the transition to renewable energy.
I recently read in the CalPERS newsletter that my retirement fund has a set of "investment beliefs." I was pleased to see that environmental and climate issues were among its concerns.
Why was I especially pleased? When my children were in elementary school, I began to write letters to corporations and elected officials about preserving the environment. In those days, we talked about "pollution"—air, water, land. The most global we got was the Rainforest Action Network and anti-nuclear protests in the 1970s and 1980s. That was working for the future—my children’s future.
Suddenly, it is the future. As my children and their friends meet the challenges of their thirties, all our environmental issues are global and the last calendar page has been torn off.
Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time, bar none. War? Racism? Income inequality? All urgent, but I am learning that climate change does not affect everyone equally, and so it is also a social justice issue. Problems bundled together are easier to attack, and my own attack now begins against unethical, dangerous fossil fuel investment, and climate change.
CalPERS’ investments in fossil fuels…
- Ignored an ongoing, vibrant international discussion about the effect of fossil fuels on climate issues.
- Ignored the rolling disasters hitting the news.
- Doubled their substantial coal, oil, and gas reserves over the past 10 years.
- Are are not even good investments—my honest and heartfelt concern, as it is for all pensioners. They run the risk of becoming "stranded" investments as carbon emissions are regulated, and of all things, some of our money is supporting fossil fuels in Putin’s Russia!
- In doing all this, CalPERS has also ignored both its own professed "investment beliefs" and exciting opportunities for investment in renewable energy.
So as I learned all this, I pep-talked myself, "Don’t just sit there terrified—you should take action now!" If I wrote letters in the 80s for my children’s future, how much more important to do so now—for myself, today, as well as for the kids and grandkids?
So I urge you, especially CalPERS members, please respond to the urgency of the climate change reality: write or email your PERS contacts today, as I am doing, and insist that our own retirement fund divest from fossil fuels—and invest in renewable energy. Urge our retirement fund to transform its huge domestic and international fossil fuel entanglements.