In the Midst of Chaos, Coal?

Coal Truck in Open Pit Mine

If CalPERS divested from thermal coal in 2017, as is commonly perceived, why does it still have millions of dollars invested in some of the worst thermal coal producers? With the West Coast in flames from the effects of climate change, why is CalPERS still invested in coal, the fossil fuel that is the most toxic accelerator of human-caused climate change?

On Monday, September 14, Fossil Free California will release an analysis of CalPERS’ coal holdings in a report titled CalPERS Continues to Invest in Coal (Report). We will present our Report at the Investment Committee meeting on Monday with a press release – the Report won’t be made public until that time.

Briefly, the Report makes the following points:

  1. CalPERS’ portfolio still holds millions in coal, according to the SB185 definition.
  2. CalPERS has investments in other majority coal companies.
  3. In 2019, CalPERS added billions in companies that are part of the thermal coal value chain.
  4. CalPERS invests in companies with the largest coal reserves.
  5. CalPERS lags far behind many other institutional investors.
  6. Ongoing coal investments pose financial, legal, and fiduciary risk.

The Report raises several questions that we will address during the Public Comments at the end of the Investment Committee meeting.

Please visit the Board Meetings page on the CalPERS website to tune in to the livestream of the Investment Committee meeting.

We will update this post once the Report has been made public – stay tuned!


  1. Marjorie Blackwell on September 11, 2020 at 11:33 am

    CalPERS board,

    As a CalPers retiree, I am shocked that you have continued to invest in coal despite your professed long-term investment strategy. How can you do that when climate change is staring us in the face in the form of devastating wildfires in California, hurricanes and floods in the East, 100-degree temperatures in Siberia and more?

    You know that coal is responsible for 44% of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, making it the primary contributor to climate change. Yet, you have $6.5 billion invested in companies in the thermal coal value chain, e.g., coal-fired utilities and coal producers. Not only that, you have continued to add coal to your portfolio!

    Not counting human and environmental loss, investments in coal have lost value. In the last year, coal stocks have posted a total return of -41.4% as compared with a total return of 10.8% for the S&P 500! Given the pandemic and global economic and policy trends, this sector is a very bad bet for CalPERS. Had you divested from fossil fuels 10 years ago, it would have generated an estimated additional $11.9 billion in value for retirees.


    -Marjorie Blackwell
    Piedmont, CA

  2. Linda Tabb on September 11, 2020 at 9:38 pm


  3. Miriam Eide on October 14, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    Marjorie, Thank you so much for your excellent letter. I would strongly encourage you to share it with CalPERS if you haven’t already by emailing: