Oregon Treasurer Read’s Decarbonization Framework is a Missed Opportunity

“It is too little, too late: crucially, the framework does not end new investments in fossil fuels or remove the worst emitters."

Portland, OR – The Oregon State Treasury (OST) released a plan to review carbon intensive industries in the OST portfolio over the next 30 years with no action to exit those emitters mentioned. This review was announced by State Treasurer Tobias Read on November 16. The actual plan will not be unveiled to the Oregon Investment Council until 2024 and will not be completed until 2050. The OST manages $130 billion in assets including $90 billion in the Oregon Public Employee Retirement Fund (OPERF).

“Although Divest Oregon welcomes OST’s steps toward decarbonizing its investments, and addressing the serious risks to its portfolio, this framework is a missed opportunity given the immediacy of the world’s climate breakdown,” said Divest Oregon’s Susan Palmiter. “It is too little, too late: crucially, the framework does not end new investments in fossil fuels or remove the worst emitters. The OST is required to make long-term investments, and continued fossil fuel investment locks us into financial and climate risk. The plan’s 2050 deadline does not reflect the urgency of our time, which is the reason many voters showed up in the recent election. The OST should have explicitly stated, like New York State has done, that it will divest from energy companies that present too much of a financial risk.”

Overall, Treasurer Read’s framework:

  • Does not spell out how the OST will divest from carbon-intensive companies that fail their reviews. The framework also does not limit new investments in carbon intensive industries including companies that are involved in risky extraction and fossil fuel expansion.
  • Assumes that shareholder engagement with fossil fuel companies will work, despite the fact that it has not succeeded in changing their core business models and is often used to enhance their reputation.
  • Fails to take into account the rapidly accelerating climate crisis by setting target dates that do not address the crisis with the urgency that is needed to combat the scale of the climate disasters, including the record-setting wildfires plaguing the Pacific Northwest.
  • Relies on net-zero commitments, which are not the same as net-zero emissions. Net-zero commitments have been challenged as “dangerous distractions” by hundreds of leading climate and human rights organizions.
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    OPERF and the Oregon Short Term Fund have at least $5.3 billion invested in fossil fuels according to Divest Oregon’s Risky Business report. These include the likes of big emitters such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron. None of these companies are on a pathway to transition their business out of fossil fuel production and transportation.

    “The very fact that Treasurer Read is releasing this decarbonization plan in the first place is a direct result of the power Divest Oregon has built over the past year, and direct pressure from Oregonians demanding public money no longer finance climate destruction,” said Jenifer Schramm, co-lead of the Divest Oregon coalition. “While it’s good to see climate risk being explicitly stated in financial strategy, this plan reads like it was written 20 years ago, not for the urgency we’re experiencing today.”

    More than 1550 institutions with assets totaling more than $40 trillion, including the world’s largest pension funds and local university endowments and governments, have committed to exit their investments from fossil fuels.

    Divest Oregon is supporting 2023 legislation that takes into account OST’s legal constraints, stops new investment in fossil fuels, and phases out all fossil fuel investments by 2035. Oregonians, including tens of thousands of our members who rely on PERS, feel the urgency of the moment and call on Treasurer Read to support the Treasury Investment and Climate Protection Act.



    For more on the Treasury Investment & Climate Protection Act, see: https://www.divestoregon.org/treasury-investment-and-climate-protection-act

    Divest Oregon is a statewide grassroots coalition of individuals and 99 organizations representing unions with PERS members, racial and climate justice groups, youth leaders, and faith communities urging Oregon to divest fossil fuels.

    Divest Oregon is a member of the North America-wide Climate Safe Pensions Network, a network of more than 25 grassroots communities demanding public pension funds divest from fossil fuels and invest in climate-safe solutions.