CA/CO Pension Funds Lost Billions on Fossil Fuels

California pension funds CalPERS (public employees), CalSTRS (state teachers), and Colorado’s PERA (public employees) lost more than $19 billion over the last 10 years by staying invested in fossil fuels according to three just-released reports by Corporate Knights, a Toronto-based media and analysis firm.


For each pension fund, returns for publicly-disclosed equities were compared, quarter by quarter, for the portfolio versus a fossil-free version.  The results were striking. If these pension funds had divested fossil fuel stocks ten years ago:

  • CalPERS ($380 billion) would have generated an additional $11.9 billion 
  • CalSTRS state teachers retirement fund ($238 billion) would have gained $5.5 billion, and
  • Colorado’s $45 billion state pension fund (PERA) would have generated an estimated additional $1.77 billion in value.

Pension Response

State Treasurer Fiona Ma, who sits on the Boards of both CalPERS and CalSTRS, said: “These findings should put an end to the myth that divestment from the fossil fuel industry harms the financial well-being of our public pension funds. Quite the opposite is true.” 

However, citing fiduciary duty and the need to stay invested in order to “keep a seat at the table” and engage the fossil fuel companies (as if that would change anything), CalSTRS,  CalPERS, and Colorado’s PERA have refused to divest their fossil fuel holdings.

Staying invested might make (financial) sense if fossil fuel investments were making money. But investments in fossil fuels are losing money: traditional energy has been the worst-performing sector in the S&P 500 for the last ten years.

“We knew CalPERS’ fossil fuel investments did environmental damage to us all.  It turns out the damage was fiscal too – CalPERS took an $11.9 billion portfolio hit by persisting in dead-end investments in fossil fuels.” — Wynne Furth, Former Palo Alto City Attorney, CalPERS retiree

Link to Press Release and Contacts:

Press release and contacts

Link to full reports:


Read more about the reports in Chief Investment Officer, The Sacramento Bee, Desmog Blog, and Common Dreams.