7am EST, Monday, March 15, 2021
Contacts: Miriam Eide, firstname.lastname@example.org, 507-923-6346
Sandy Emerson, email@example.com, 650-743-0524
Sacramento, California — The California Public Employees Retirement System still holds $8.5 million in thermal coal producers that were mandated to be excluded by SB 185, a 2015 state law on thermal coal divestment.
SB185, the 2015 Public Divestiture of Thermal Coal Companies Act (de León/Hill) requires CalPERS to divest from companies that earn the majority of their revenue from thermal coal production. When the fund divested from several coal companies in 2017, it declined to divest from three thermal coal companies that met the criteria—Exxaro, Adaro, and Banpu—because “they had indicated plans to transition their business models to adapt to clean energy generation (such as through a decrease in reliance on thermal coal mining as a revenue source).”
Four years later, all three of these companies continue to make well over 50% of their revenue from thermal coal (according to data from the Global Coal Exit List at coalexit.org) and show no sign of transitioning their business models. Instead, all of these companies have documented expansion plans for their coal operations. Although South Africa-based Exxaro Resources recently announced that it will not acquire more thermal coal assets, it already owns more than 31 billion tons of recoverable coal, which is more than enough to create a “tipping point” for Earth’s climate.
Fossil Free California and allies such as 350.org, The Climate Center, Reclaim Finance, Urgewald, and Stand.earth call on CalPERS to finish its mandated thermal coal divestment by immediately adding Exxaro, Adaro, and Banpu to the thermal coal exclusion list.
Moreover, new groundbreaking financial research from Reclaim Finance, Urgewald, Rainforest Action Network and others reveals that CalPERS held almost $8 Billion as of June 30, 2020 in the entire coal industry. Although not all of these companies are mandated to be divested under the terms of SB 185, these coal investments threaten CalPERS’ ability to meet its climate targets and stated greenhouse gas reduction goals. More than 80% of the companies listed in the GCEL generate less than 50% of their revenues from coal production, and the SB 185 legislation completely ignores the coal power sector.
Consequently, CalPERS can still invest in companies such as POSCO that are planning the development of new coal plants. This is completely inconsistent with CalPERS’ pledge to align its investment portfolio with a 1.5°C target as a member of the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance. CalPERS’ ongoing support to the coal industry and lack of robust coal exit policy is a breach of the Alliance’s coal position paper, which acknowledges that early retirement of existing coal power assets by 2030 in OECD countries and by 2040 globally is crucial for achieving net-zero emissions globally by 2050. To stay below 1.5C, emissions from coal need to fall around twice as quickly in the 2020s as those from oil and gas, according to a recent Carbon Brief analysis.
● CalPERS is the largest state public pension fund in the US, serving more than 2 million members in its public employee retirement system, and administering benefits for 1.5 million members and their families. It has approximately $400B in assets under management.
● Fossil Free California is a 501c3 grassroots non-profit, focused on moving money out of fossil fuels and promoting the transition to a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.
“CalPERS’s net-zero commitment is worthless as long as it keeps investing in the growth of the most climate destructive sector. Divesting from all companies planning new coal projects and fully exiting the coal sector has become the litmus test for climate credibility and it’s high time that CalPERS walks the walk. A few years ago, CalPERS reduced its exposure to coal in order to abide by the SB 185. One might hope that since then the ongoing pandemic and last years’ fire seasons would have convinced it of the
urgency of the ecological crisis and the need to exit the coal sector. But even if it doesn’t, CalPERS must still deliver on its net-zero pledge and follow the example of the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance: quit coal by adopting a policy similar to that of AXA” — Lucie Pinson, founder and director of Reclaim Finance and the Coal Policy Tool.
“If CalPERS’ purpose is to serve the public, it needs to get out of fossil fuel investments, starting with coal. Excluding coal mining companies with a coal share of revenue above 50% was a good first step 5 years ago, but is far from progressive today. Even BlackRock already applies more stringent criteria, with a csr of > 25% for thermal coal miners. To truly exit coal, CalPERS would need to extend its exclusion criteria to coal power companies and lower the threshold close to zero until 2030. Last but not least, CalPERS should immediately divest from companies that are still expanding their coal operations, to prevent this dirty and dying industry from growing.” — Heffa Schuecking, founder and director of the
German environment and human rights organization urgewald and publisher of the Global Coal Exit List.