A number of the SEI Steering Committee members -- along with the Sierra Club, Fossil Free California, Youth Vs. Apocalypse, and the California Democratic Party -- have been advocating for CalSTRS to divest from fossil fuels. CalSTRS has been feeling the heat because on September 1 the board passed a resolution committing CalSTRS to achieve a net-zero investment portfolio by 2050 or sooner.
On the surface, this looks like a significant victory. CalSTRS has heard its members' concerns about global warming and has committed to change its investment strategy. But this 2050 net-zero resolution is problematic. It's an example of what climate justice advocates call "greenwashing," referring to the green veneer many corporations use to hide their destructive environmental practices. Most significantly, there is no mention of divestment from fossil fuels in the CalSTRS 2050 net-zero action plan. Instead, the CalSTRS plan relies on its pre-existing strategy of "engagement," which means using its investment as leverage to persuade oil companies to shift from fossil fuels to renewables. So far, this strategy has proven completely inadequate.
In addition, their concept of net-zero emissions includes balancing carbon emissions with carbon reduction technologies such as carbon capture, a largely unproven technology. Last and not least, 2050 is a long way off. In the meantime, forests are burning, massive flooding is occurring due to extreme rainfall, and we are experiencing prolonged drought, indications of an increasingly inhospitable climate.
As for fears about divestment hurting the fund, the UC system divested from fossil fuels in 2019. Last year, their fund’s returns were 34% while CalSTRS’ were 27%.
Take action! Sign the divestment petition urging CalSTRS board to make divestment a reality.
--Andrew Walzer, Humanities, LA City College
CalSTRS Responds to Divestment Pressure
Protestors outside CalSTRS Meeting in Santa Monica.
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