Exciting news! The San Francisco Board of Supervisors just voted unanimously to support fossil fuel divestment. Here’s a press release we just put out:
San Francisco Board of Supervisors Unanimously Pass Resolution Urging Fossil Fuel Divestment
Resolution urges the city’s retirement system to divest over $583 million from the fossil fuel industry
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Board of Supervisors (SFERS) passed a unanimous resolution this afternoon calling on the San Francisco Employee Retirement System to divest over $583 million invested in the 200 corporations that hold the majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves.
The resolution makes San Francisco the third city in the nation after Ithaca and Seattle to push for fossil fuel divestment. If the SFERS Board agrees to the Supervisors’ request, it will become the largest pension fund in the country to divest from the fossil fuel industry.
“Divestment is an important part of our city response to climate change,” said Supervisor John Avalos, who introduced the resolution.
The San Francisco Employee’s Retirement System (SFERS) is a roughly $16 billion pension fund that serves more than 52,000 active and retired employees of the City and County of San Francisco and their survivors. According to SFERS Executive Director Jay Huish, the fund currently owns $583.7 million of public holdings in 91 of top 200 fossil fuel companies. Some of SFERS’ largest fossil fuel holdings include $112 million in ExxonMobil, $60 million in Chevron, $26 million in Shell Oil, $17 million in Occidental Petroleum, and $11 million in the China National Offshore Oil Corporation. (1)
The push for fossil fuel divestment is part of a new national campaign, Go Fossil Free, that is modeled on the 1980s movement to divest from apartheid South Africa. The movement has spread to over 100 cities and 300 colleges and universities across the country. Four colleges, Unity, Hampshire, Sterling, and College of the Atlantic, have committed to divestment. There are also active campaigns on every University of California campus. Earlier this spring, UC Berkeley’s student government voted to divest their $2 million budget from fossil fuels. (2)
In San Francisco, the divestment campaign was led by 350 Bay Area and the national 350.org campaign and supported by groups including SEIU 1021, SF Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, Center for Biological Diverstiy, and more.
“San Francisco’s commitment is a big victory for the burgeoning fossil fuel divestment movement,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, one of the organizations helping lead Go Fossil Free campaign. “The Bay Area will spend billions adapting to climate change–it makes no sense at all to simultaneously invest in the corporations making that work necessary.”
Allowing global warming to proceed unchecked could have a devastating affect on the Bay Area. A recent report by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission found that a 55-inch sea level rise by the end of the century would put $62 billion of Bay Area shoreline development at risk and require at least $14 billion worth of static structures to protect California’s shorelines. (3)
The 200 fossil fuel companies targeted by Board of Supervisors resolution were chosen because they control the vast majority of the world’s coal, oil and gas reserves. According to top scientists and analysis by groups like the International Energy Agency, nearly 80% of those reserves must go unburned if the world is going to keep global warming below 2°C, a target that the United States and nearly every other country on Earth has agreed to meet. (4)
SFERS could face a potential financial risk by staying invested in the fossil fuel industry, according to a new report by market analysts at HSBC. According to the report, if countries agree to meet the 2°C target and pass regulations strong enough to keep 75-80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, the write off of those reserves could cause loss in market value of up to 60% for fossil fuel companies like BP, Shell, and Chevron. (5)
On the other hand, according to a new report by the Aperio Group, a group of financial advisors based in Marin, fossil fuel divestment poses would increase portfolio risk by a roughly 0.01%. The report’s lead author, Patrick Geddes, told reporters on a recent webinar that, “Statistically, it’s basically noise.” (6)
After today’s vote, divestment advocates will be following up with the SFERS Retirement Board to make sure that it pursues the divestment goal in a timely and responsible manner, as well as continuing to educate San Francisco residents about the importance of the move.
“This is a big victory today, but it’s just the beginning of our campaign here in California,” said Jamie Henn, 350.org’s Communications Director and a San Francisco resident. “We’re looking forward to extending this effort to cities across the state and supporting the growing student movement on campuses. We’ve financed the fossil fuel industry’s destruction long enough, it’s time to invest in the future.”
1. SFERS latest financial report: http://bit.ly/Xcpasb
2. Go Fossil Free campaign website: http://gofossilfree.org
3. Sea level rise report: http://bit.ly/yibazN
4. Article on IEA report: http://bit.ly/QDWkT4
5. Article on HSBC report on fossil fuel reserves: http://bit.ly/Xdm32Z
6. Article on Aperio Group report: http://bit.ly/WeRLzv