December 8, 2021
Report reveals just 14 U.S. public pension, permanent funds invest massive $82 billion in fossil fuels
New report with decade of data affirms fossil fuel divestment, reinvestment most prudent strategy for pensions in tackling climate change
(TURTLE ISLAND LANDS / SO-CALLED UNITED STATES, UNCEDED ANCESTRAL HOMELANDS OF THOUSANDS OF INDIGENOUS TRIBES) — A first-of-its-kind comprehensive report released today from the Climate Safe Pensions Network and Stand.earth reveals that only 14 US pension and permanent funds finance fossil fuels to the tune of $81.6 billion, bankrolling an outsized proportion of the coal, oil, and gas industry.
Amy Gray, Stand.earth, Senior Climate Finance Strategist, said: “Public pension funds are the quiet culprits of climate chaos. With 10 years of data, there’s hard evidence: divestment is a winning financial strategy. The fastest way for pensions to address climate change is to divest fossil fuel holdings and invest in just and equitable climate solutions.”
The real-world impacts and conflicts these investments generate are being exposed right now. Nine of the funds listed in the report invest over $281 million in TC Energy, the company behind the controversial Coastal GasLink pipeline violating Indigenous rights in Wet’suwet’en land, including militarized police raids in British Columbia, Canada. The pension funds also have over $3.24 billion invested in big tar sands miners Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and Suncor.
Since the launch of the fossil fuel divestment movement, a decade of data shows early adopters of divestment strategies report neutral or positive financial results. From increasing stranded risk to the cost of capital for fossil fuel projects doubling, material risks for fossil fuel corporations are proven long-term and structural.
In the US, the cost of climate disasters doubled in 2020, costing at least $95 billion in immediate recovery. To date, 1500 institutions globally representing $39.88 trillion in assets have committed to some level of divestment.
Pensions makeup 11.8% of commitments, including notable divestment actions from Baltimore, Maryland, New York City and State, and the state of Maine. Most recently San Diego announced its intention to divest its $2.3 billion municipal portfolio from fossil fuels.
TOTAL FOSSIL FUND FUEL INVESTMENTS (USD)
|Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC)||$ 4,998,406,400|
|Alaska Retirement Management Board (ARMB)||$ 1,317,804,996|
|California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS)||$ 27,143,227,590|
|California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS)||$ 15,658,203,000|
|Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund (CTPF)||$ 602,007,802|
|Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA)||$ 2,122,338,149|
|Maine Public Employees Retirement System (MainePERS)||$ 989,154,971|
|Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Trust (PRIT)||$ 2,598,587,207|
|Minnesota State Board of Investment (MSBI)||$ 6,012,767,267|
|New Jersey Pension Funds (NJ)||$ 4,810,170,560|
|New York State Teachers’ Retirement System (NYSTRS)||$6,563,005,119|
|Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS)||$ 1,776,265,000|
|San Mateo County Employees’ Retirement Association (SamCERA)||$ 46,177,998|
|Washington State Investment Board (WSIB)||$ 7,092,368,251|
Nick Limbeck, Chicago teacher and divestment organizer, said: “We have only 6 1/2 years before we hit 1.5 C of warming which will trigger climate feedback loops that will send global warming spiraling out of control, yet our Chicago Teachers Pension Fund still has $600 million invested in fossil fuel companies. As teachers, we are called upon to nurture the next generation. The time is now to divest from fossil fuels. Let us give our students a chance to live and thrive in a world without climate catastrophe.
Maine Youth for Climate Justice, said: “The primary duty of the Maine Public Employee Retirement System (MainePERS) is to ensure that the pension fund is well-funded and protected from large and unnecessary risk. These fossil fuel companies are exactly the kind of risk that they are mandated to minimize. The bottom line is that fossil fuels are not a safe investment for Maine, not safe for future generations, and not safe for the public employees relying upon this pension fund to support them as they age.”
Andrew Bogrand, Divest Oregon Communications Director, said: “This report reveals just how pension funds are silently bankrolling the climate crisis, which we are already experiencing here in Oregon. Following deadly heatwaves and costly forest fires, more and more Oregonians are urging the Oregon State Treasury to invest in a fossil-free future. Unfortunately, we do not know the extent of our state’s investment in the carbon economy. This is why we are urging the Oregon State Treasury to act transparently and disclose all of its fossil fuel holdings. Decarbonizing our retirement starts with following the money!”
Jordan Dale, Divest NY, said: “It is disturbing and unacceptable that so many pension fund boards and managers, whose mission is to provide for the secure future of their members, insist on supporting fossil fuel companies, which are systematically engaged in destroying that future, not just for the members, but for all of us.
Jane Vosburg, Fossil Free California Board President and CalSTRS beneficiary, said: “It is unconscionable for any fund, especially teachers’ pensions like my CalSTRS pension, to continue investing close to $16 billion in an industry that has caused this existential climate crisis. Costly wildfires throughout the state have already razed communities and schools and relocated and traumatized our students. Since 2014, teachers, like me, students, and local teachers’ unions representing 160,000 beneficiaries have been urging CalSTRS board members (two of whom support divestment) to divest.”
Deborah McNamara, Campaign Director at 350 Colorado, said: “Maintaining the status quo of fossil fuel energy production and investments will unquestionably lead to a self-created catastrophe. Therefore the State of Colorado’s state pension fund – Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) has an ethical responsibility to take steps to avert this disastrous result. Attempting to profit from investments in companies whose profits depend almost exclusively on the continuation of practices that cause climate breakdown (and adding insult to injury, losing money on those investments) is unacceptable and puts Colorado and PERA on the wrong side of history.”
Tina Weishaus, Co-Chair of Divest NJ, said: “There is only one strategy to protect the long term interests of NJ State Pension members from the existential threat of climate change and that is to divest from the billions of dollars that the Pension has in fossil fuel investments. Delay is folly!”
The Corporate Responsibility Action Group with Mothers Out Front MA, said: “In Massachusetts we have an immediate opportunity to use the data in this Report to identify the fossil fuel investments in our state pension. Fortunately, we have a legislature working to move money out of risky fossil fuel investments and into fossil free options to protect our pensioners, taxpayers and communities, especially the most vulnerable low income communities. The data in this Report will be critical to the success of their efforts as we and future generations suffer the increasing damage and losses due to the climate crisis.”
Doug Woodby, 350Juneau, said: “This report gives Alaskans the first in-depth analysis of fossil fuel related investments held by the Permanent Fund, accounting for at least 6% of the funds $82 billion at the end of the 2021 fiscal year, as well as the Alaska state pension funds having over $1 billion in fossil fuel related stocks and bonds. These fossil fuel investments are not only contributing to climate chaos, by financing exploration and extraction of carbon-based energy, but they also risk significant monetary loss as the world turns to renewable energy. Divesting from fossil fuels is critically important for preserving the value of these funds for our pensioners, as well as for avoiding the worst of climate change impacts.”
Bobbie Mooney, Fossil Free PERA Spokesperson & Colorado PERA member, said: “PERA owes the same fiduciary duty to members retiring today and members retiring 30 years from now. Everyone’s interests should be aligned when it comes to fossil fuel investments. It’s time to move our money to safer investments, both for better returns today and a viable future for PERA members of my generation and beyond.”
Devon Reynolds, Colorado PERA member, University of Colorado Graduate Student Employee, said: “PERA should follow the lead of the New York State Comptroller, who announced that his office will decarbonize the pension fund’s full portfolio by 2040 with interim targets, completing a systematic review of all fossil fuel investments within four years, including divesting from any companies which don’t have a plan to leave fossil fuels behind. This includes transitioning their business away from oil and gas production, servicing or transportation, and alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement. As long as PERA’s money remains invested in the fossil fuel industry, that investment supports an industry that has willfully denied its role in climate change, accelerating today’s climate crisis in favor of profits. PERA must divest from fossil fuels.”
Contact: Lindsay Meiman, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 (917) 970-2281