September 6, 2018 on “RISE Act” to support divestment of federal pension funds from fossil fuels

Washington, DC — Today, Senator Jeff Merkley introduced the Retirement Investments for a Sustainable Economy (RISE) Act, which would empower the Government Accountability Office to research and propose a mechanism for fossil fuel divestment and create a fossil-free index fund for federal workers’ pensions.


In response, Executive Director May Boeve made the following statement:


“This bill is a big step forward in our efforts to break the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on Washington. As we build a fossil-free world that works for all, the RISE Act would begin the process of divesting federal pensions from fossil fuel corporations and protect workers’ retirement savings in the clean energy transition. Institutions around the world have already divested more than $6 trillion in assets from fossil fuels, and more are continuing to take a stand against oil and gas extraction. While Trump and his Big Oil buddies double-down on climate denial, this bill helps move workers, our government and our economy where we need to go.”


The release of the RISE Act coincides with the major “Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice” mobilization that is taking place this Saturday, September 8 in the lead up to next week’s Global Climate Action Summit in California. More than 900 climate rallies are planned in over 90 countries for the day of action, including a march in San Francisco that is expected to draw tens of thousands of people.


According to one pager provided by Senator Merkley’s office, “The RISE Act will provide for a Climate Choice stock option under the Thrift Savings Plan that is free from investment in fossil fuel companies. The RISE Act also mandates a report within one year from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examining the risk for investors from TSP holdings in fossil fuel companies given policies to keep average global temperature increases to 2º Celsius. The RISE Act also directs the GAO to provide a divestment mechanism for the TSP should the report show risk to investors from fossil fuel holdings.”


The one page explains, “The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) offers federal employees tax-deferred retirement savings and investment opportunities, similar to the benefits many private corporations offer their employees under 401(k) plans. As of July 2017, the TSP has approximately 5.1 million participants with approximately $510 billion in assets; the TSP is the largest defined contribution plan in the world. While federal workers can set the amount and risk allocation of their TSP accounts, they do not have control over the types of industries in which their money is invested.”


On Monday, September 10, and Divest Invest will be releasing a report on the growth of the fossil fuel divestment movement in 2018 that includes the latest official tally of institutions that have made a divestment commitment.