FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For the first time ever, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) is engaging publicly with advocates of fossil fuel divestment. Sacramento State’s College of Continuing Education Consensus and Collaboration Program will be hosting a virtual Sustainability Symposium on Wednesday, February 9th from 4:00-6:30 PM PST. Speakers at the symposium will include CalSTRS board members, investment professionals, and climate activists, including divestment advocates from Youth vs. Apocalypse, CTA Divest, and Fossil Free California.
CalSTRS is the second largest financier of fossil fuels among public pension funds in the United States, with $15.6 billion invested in fossil fuels (or, over 5% of their portfolio). Their top fossil fuel investments include Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BHP, and BP.
For the past eight years, thousands of teachers, students, environmental advocates, and CalSTRS beneficiaries across California have called for the public pension fund to divest from fossil fuels. Teachers unions representing over 140,000 California teachers have passed formal resolutions calling for fossil fuel divestment. The extraction, refining, pipeline transport, and storage of fossil fuels, and the effects of climate change resulting from the use of fossil fuels all have disproportionate adverse impacts on low income and communities of color.
Historically, CalSTRS has resisted calls for fossil fuel divestment, citing potential financial losses. However, a recent independent study by Corporate Knights found that between 2009 and 2019, CalSTRS would have earned $5.5 billion more in profits had they divested ten years prior.
One of the symposiums’ speakers is Jagdeep Singh Bachher, the University of California’s chief financial officer and treasurer, who led that system’s divestment. According to Bachher, “The reason we sold some $150 million in fossil fuel assets from our endowment was the reason we sell other assets: They posed a long-term risk to generating strong returns for UC’s diversified portfolios.”
CalSTRS, however, argues that through shareholder influence, they can push fossil fuel giants such as Exxon to become sustainable companies. However, CalSTRS CIO Chris Ailman recently admitted, If these companies wanna survive and not be Eastman Kodak, not wanna be Blockbuster Video, darn it, they better get their act together and become energy companies, not just oil and gas firms.”
Pro-divestment advocates argue that it is a fool’s errand to try to get a company to change its core business model. Fossil Free board president Jane Vosburg will argue that continued engagement gives political cover to those companies most responsible for the destruction of our atmosphere.
This event will be hosted by CalSTRS board member State Superintendent of Education Tony Thurmond and the event will include time for questions and answers.
Miriam Eide | Fossil Free California | firstname.lastname@example.org | 507-923-6346