Vote comes just two weeks after New York City announced full divestment from fossil fuels
San Francisco, CA — On January 24, the San Francisco Retirement Board will vote on a long-awaited resolution to divest San Francisco’s pension fund from fossil fuel companies.
The decision will be seen as an early indication of whether or not the fossil fuel divestment movement can build on the momentum from last week’s historic announcement that New York City would be divesting its pension funds and suing Big Oil for damages caused by climate change.
“This is a definitive moment for San Francisco in the fight for a fossil free world. As the city prepares to host a climate convening of the world’s local leaders later this year, it’s time to put their money where their mouth is,” said May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org. “Tackling the climate crisis means that cities everywhere will need to stand up to the fossil fuel industry, specially when federal leaders are slow to act. By divesting their more than $20 billion pension fund from fossil fuels, the City by the Bay will show Big Oil billionaires and communities around the globe that they’re serious about real climate action.”
Since the campaign launch six years ago, the fossil fuel divestment movement has succeeded in securing commitments from over 800 institutions in over 77 countries representing more than $6 trillion in assets.
In San Francisco, it’s been a long path to next week’s vote. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to endorse fossil fuel divestment in April 2013. Last December, hours before he passed away, Mayor Ed Lee published a piece in Medium endorsing divestment, writing, “By taking the bold step to divest from fossil fuel assets, we are once again taking a strong stand on the essential issue of the environment.”
Meanwhile, many Bay Area institutions have been at the forefront of the divestment campaign. San Francisco State University became the first community college district in the nation to divest from fossil fuels. In the South Bay, the Santa Clara Valley Water District became the first such entity to make a commitment, while Stanford University made an early commitment to divest from coal in 2014.
Divestment has proved an effective tool to help stigmatize the fossil fuel industry and increase investor worries that as the world moves towards renewable energy, coal, oil and gas reserves could become “stranded assets” and drive down the share price of fossil fuel companies. A report from the University of Michigan concluded that the divestment campaign has successfully shifted the conversation around fossil fuels and institutional responsibility to act on climate.
According to many investment advisors and financial experts divesting from fossil fuels poses no significant risk to the portfolio performance. In fact, many are now arguing that as fossil fuel companies become an increasingly risky bet, divestment may be safer than holding onto coal, oil and gas stocks.
“The time to divest from all fossil fuels is now. Our pension board needs to listen to city workers and union members who have testified, written letters, and, presented the facts on the fossil fuel industry for years. SEIU 1021, that counts over 54,000 members in Northern California, publicly supports total divestment,” said Martha Hawthorne, retired RN from the Department of Public Health. “Our hard work built this pension system and we want an end to investments in a system of life killing extraction that endangers our future. We know climate crisis is upon us. This is evident by the drought, record pollution, extreme heat, catastrophic fires and deadly mudslides in just the last few months. We are in a race against time. Divestment is a clear way for San Francisco’s pension board to make a difference now.”
The nation’s largest environmental groups, notable figures such as Nobel Peace Prize Winner Desmond Tutu and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, have all endorsed fossil fuel divestment as a key strategy in fighting climate change.
On January 24, San Francisco has the opportunity to take a bold step forward by announcing that it will join New York City and institutions around the world by divesting from fossil fuels.
Thanu Yakupitiyage, U.S. Communications Manager, 350.org, +1-413-687-5160; firstname.lastname@example.org
Dani Heffernan. U.S. Communications Coordinator, 350.org, +1-305-992-1544; email@example.com
To view this statement online, visit: https://350.org/press-release/sf-divestmentvote/