The divestment campaign that 350.org began in late 2012 has grown up so quickly! It seemed like just yesterday that Bill McKibben et al were convincing colleges to pull their money out of the fossil fuel industry and in turn feel much better about their moral selves.
Now the movement’s graduated and moved on to lobbying municipal governments to do the same. So far Seattle and San Francisco’s city employee pension funds are both looking at divesting from fossil fuel companies.
If the Seattle retirement scheme were to divest from such companies completely, it would be the first to take such a step, said Stephanie Pfeifer of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, which represents some of Europe’s largest pension funds and asset managers.
Mindy Lubber, president of the US-based Ceres investor advocacy group, agreed, saying the move underlined the mounting push for investors to acknowledge the long-term risk of investing in fossil fuel companies, as policies to curb climate change keep emerging.
“The divestment movement without question is re-raising the question of whether fossil fuel companies are the best investment and I think over time they’re not going to be,” she said.
Seattle’s $1.9 billion pension fund currently holds $17.6 million in investments in oil and gas companies.
Today in San Francisco, City Supervisor John Avalos introduced a resolution calling for his city’s $16 billion retirement fund to divest from fossil fuel companies.
“San Francisco has aggressive goals to address climate change,” Avalos said in a statement. “It’s important that we apply these same values when we decide how to invest our funds, so we can limit our financial contributions to fossil fuels and instead promote renewable alternatives.”
McKibben says it’s “a show of Pacific solidarity.” A climate change to one is a climate change to all! But will the movement hit other, less traditionally progressive city governments as well?
Editor’s note: Bill McKibben serves on Grist’s board of directors.