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San Francisco Board of Supervisors Unanimously Pass Fossil Fuel Divestment Resolution urging the city’s retirement system to divest over $583 million from the fossil fuel industry

SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Board of Supervisors (SFERS) passed a unanimous resolution this afternoon calling on the San Francisco Employee Retirement System to divest over $583 million invested in the 200 corporations that hold the majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves.

The resolution makes San Francisco the third city in the nation after Ithaca and Seattle to push for fossil fuel divestment. If the SFERS Board agrees to the Supervisors’ request, it will become the largest pension fund in the country to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

Celebrate good times, come on!


I wrote about this more in-depth yesterday, when it wasn't altogether clear that this gutsy resolution, introduced by Supervisor John Avalos who said that "divestment is an important part of our city response to climate change," would pass.

But today, at around 2.30pm in Room 244 at City Hall, after about a 20 minute discussion among the supervisors, the resolution to divest 8.7% of holdings in its Employee’s Retirement System from fossil fuels and reinvest in sustainable alternatives like clean energy and local energy retrofits, was passed unanimously.

The San Francisco Employee’s Retirement System (SFERS)  is a roughly $16 billion pension fund that serves more than 52,000 active and retired employees of the City and County of San Francisco and their survivors. According to SFERS Executive Director Jay Huish, the fund currently owns $583.7 million of public holdings in 91 of top 200 fossil fuel companies. Some of SFERS’ largest fossil fuel holdings include $112 million in ExxonMobil, $60 million in Chevron, $26 million in Shell Oil, $17 million in Occidental Petroleum, and $11 million in the China National Offshore Oil Corporation.
District 11 Supervisor and sponsor of the resolution, John Avalos, said in his introduction that it is possible to divest with little risk and that in fact fossil-free portfolios do better, as pointed out in the hearing by investment advisors from the Aperio Group and Green Alpha. He pointed to a recent article in The Guardian warning that the carbon bubble will plunge the world into another financial crisis.
The so-called "carbon bubble" is the result of an over-valuation of oil, coal and gas reserves held by fossil fuel companies. According to a report published on Friday, at least two-thirds of these reserves will have to remain underground if the world is to meet existing internationally agreed targets to avoid the threshold for "dangerous" climate change. If the agreements hold, these reserves will be in effect unburnable and so worthless – leading to massive market losses. But the stock markets are betting on countries' inaction on climate change.
Supervisor Jane Kim, one of the more skeptical members of the board, said that while she had initial concerns she was very happy to support the resolution after reading a lot of the data that made it clear this was going to be not only a wise environmental but a solid financial decision. She said that a lot of thoughtfulness had gone into this important statement for the city.

This is Supervisor Kim's — excuse the pun — money quote:

More than just make a statement, we're making a statement with our dollars.
Below the fold, a few more quotes from various Supervisors, as I heard them from the seating area.


District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar pointed out that San Francisco has long been a leader in addressing climate change and that the over half a billion dollars that are currently going to fossil fuel companies should be invested in the safety of the community and the public good.

A recent report by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission found that a 55-inch sea level rise by the end of the century would put $62 billion of Bay Area shoreline development at risk and require at least $14 billion worth of static structures to protect California’s shorelines.


District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee said that it is important for SF as a city to make a statement on climate change, and this is a very thoughtful resolution.

District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang noted that this is the largest divestment in the history of SF to date (as well as for the fossil free divestment movement). She felt that it is risky and that it makes her a bit uneasy, but she supports this resolution because it's the right thing to do.

District 9 Supervisor David Campos called it a prudent and responsible investment, using the power of money to change corporate behavior.

District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, who is also the board's appointee to the retirement board, said that this would be a thoughtful but long divestment process and that she is looking forward to communicating with both boards to make it happen smoothly and responsibly.

Supervisor John Avalos made it a point to thank the tireless efforts of for all the work they have done in inspiring this divestment movement in cities and universities across the nation.

Then it was time for the vote, and....

Resolution passed UNANIMOUSLY

It's a good day in the City by the Bay!


crossposted at A World of Words

Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 04:33 PM PDT.

Also republished by SFKossacks, California politics, and Dream Menders.

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