Divest CalSTRS from Big Oil! (full petition text)

Divest CalSTRS from Big Oil! (full petition text)

We call on CalSTRS to divest by 2020 from all oil and gas companies, beginning with ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Shell. These companies have known for decades that their products increase the dangers of climate change, but they have not joined the international effort to minimize global warming. Since they refuse to modify their business plans or activities, and since their reserves are at risk of becoming worthless stranded assets, CalSTRS should refuse to own any of their shares.

While we appreciate recent decisions by CalSTRS to invest more sustainably, we feel that the climate crisis demands extreme urgency. We strongly object to having our money invested in fossil fuel companies, for both financial and ethical reasons. As members of CalSTRS and other citizens concerned about the climate, we insist that CalSTRS’ investments represent our values.

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Why is this important?

The Board of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) has made several important decisions to address the effects of global warming over the last year. It divested from some thermal coal companies and initiated a $2.5 billion low-carbon index fund. It has also conducted ground-breaking discussions about the nature of fiduciary duty — the fund’s responsibility to protect the welfare of its members. This discussion has expanded the definition of fiduciary duty from the usual, purely financial terms to include a consideration of the risk of climate change. But the Board has not gone far enough.

Even the numerous good-faith efforts that CalSTRS has made, over a period of many years, to engage constructively with oil and gas companies on climate risk have been unfruitful. Big Oil has not responded in any meaningful way. Therefore, it’s time for the CalSTRS Board to abandon a policy of shareholder engagement. Friendly dialogue and well-meaning resolutions with oil companies have produced no significant results. Despite decades of sustained shareholder efforts on climate change, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Shell have continued to flout international climate agreements, spread misinformation, and lobby against climate progress.

It is time to take decisive action: to divest from all fossil fuels by 2020. Little time remains to avert catastrophe — both financial and environmental. Continued investment in the fossil fuel industry exposes CalSTRS to the risk of the deflating carbon bubble: 80 percent of coal, oil, and gas reserves are unburnable (and therefore ultimately worthless) if we are to adhere to the under-2°C Paris climate agreement target.

More than 190 countries have pledged to meet the 2° target. They recognize that climate chaos would not only endanger public welfare, it would disrupt the global economy, putting all of CalSTRS’ assets at risk. Under these circumstances, divestment is the appropriate action for the Board to take as a prudent fiduciary and a cautious investment manager.

We also call on CalPERS, the other large public pension fund in the state, to divest by 2020 from all oil and gas companies.

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