Collage graphic. Across a photo of an Oakland City building is screenshot of a headline that reads, "Opinion: Divest California public employee pensions from fossil fuels. Ending CalPERS and CalSTRS funding of this industry is critical to meet local, national and international goals." At right is a headshot of Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker.

Oakland City Attorney comes out in strong support of SB 252, California’s fossil fuel divestment bill

In a new op-ed and letter to legislators, City Attorney Barbara J. Parker connects climate damage lawsuits to necessary pension fossil fuel divestment. 

CALIFORNIA – On the heels of SB 252 swiftly clearing three Senate committees and full Senate floor vote, Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker sent a letter to state legislators and issued an op-ed in East Bay Times underscoring her urgent support for SB 252, which will stop the nation’s largest pension funds from financing climate chaos. This comes as Oakland Unified School District successfully passed a resolution in support of SB 252, and builds on Oakland’s 2016 measure divesting city funds from all investments in any company “whose primary business or enterprise is extraction, production, refining, burning and/or distribution of any fossil fuels.” 

The full op-ed is available here.
The full letter to legislators is available here.

On the City Attorney’s move to support SB 252, Miguel Alatorre, Fossil Free California’s Campaigns Organizer, said:

“As an advocate for climate justice and responsible investing, I commend the Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker and the City Attorney’s office for their courageous and visionary move to come out in support of SB 252, the landmark 2023 bill to divest California’s public pensions of fossil fuels. Oakland is demonstrating true leadership in the push to align California’s investments with its values. Today’s move builds on the success of Oakland’s 2014 divestment, and sends a powerful message that our cities have a vital role to play in accelerating the transition to a sustainable and fossil-free future. I applaud City Attorney Parker’s dedication to protecting our environment, promoting clean energy solutions, and safeguarding the well-being of Oakland residents and Black, Indigenous, and communities of color all across the state. This public statement serves as a powerful example for other communities and organizations to follow, as we collectively work towards a more just and sustainable world.”

This builds on the bill’s overwhelming momentum as the SB 252 heads into the state Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee in late June.  The bill enters the Assembly with massive support, including endorsements from over 140 California organizations;  unions representing over 470,000 members; and California State Treasurer Fiona Ma supporting the bill.

Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker’s op-ed reads: 

“Divesting from fossil fuel companies is the right thing to do to protect California’s frontline and fenceline communities. The City of Oakland is in one of the top five most affected counties in the state. And nearly 92 percent of people living within a mile of ongoing or new fossil fuel development in California are Black, Indigenous, and/or other People of Color. Due to long legacies of systemic racism, these communities are disproportionately impacted by climate change, climate harm, and pollution. Continuing to invest in fossil fuels perpetuates these injustices. The Legislature must pass SB 252 this year. This bill is both financially prudent and essential to meeting our collective climate goals.”

To date, 1,591 institutions representing more than $40.51 trillion in assets have committed to some level of fossil fuel divestment. CalPERS and CalSTRS would have generated an additional $11.9 billion and $5.5 billion respectively by 2019 had they divested in 2009 according to Corporate Knights. This is the equivalent of $6,072 per CalPERS member and $5,752 per CalSTRS member in this 10 year period. The University of Waterloo will release new data on the financial impact of CalPERS’ and CalSTRS’ non-divestment on June 28, 2023.

This comes as Californians face climate whiplash, navigating lives, jobs, and families while mopping up from record-breaking floods (estimated at $30 billion in damages in 2023 so far) after decades of drought, and girding for the ever-lengthening wildfire season

The IPCC urgently warns that “there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all,” with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres exclaiming “new funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is delusional.” Yet CalPERS and CalSTRS – the two largest public pension funds in the U.S. – continue to collectively finance fossil fuels to the tune of over $44 billion – including financing for new fossil fuel expansion projects. 

As Professor James Stone wrote, “Fossil fuels are a losing bet. Why are CalPERS & CalSTRS still investing in them?” In February, the Sacramento Bee revealed the fossil fuel lobby spent more than $34 million in Sacramento in 2022

Unions representing more than 470,000 California workers support SB 252. Union support includes California Faculty Association, CFT- Union of Educators & Classified Professionals, California Nurses Association, AFSCME California, Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, and California Community College Independents, and more.

To date, over 1,590 institutions representing more than $40.51 trillion in assets have committed to some level of fossil fuel divestment, including three New York City pension funds, the largest public pension in Washington, DC, the Chicago Public Teachers’ Pension Fund, and massive global pensions like ABP and PFZW.


For the embargoed report from the University of Waterloo on the financial impact of CalPERS and CalSTRS non-divestment, to be released on June 28, contact Lindsay Meiman:

For all other press inquiries, contact: 

Shana DeClercq | Fossil Free California |