Support Divestment from Fossil Fuels

Target: Christopher J. Ailman, Chief Investment Officer of CalSTRS

Goal: Support full divestment from all fossil fuel holdings by the year 2020.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) and California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) are the two largest public pension funds in the United States. Both are currently in the process of developing their divestment policies, and climate groups and activists across the state of California are calling on the funds to include fossil fuel divestment in their plans.

CalSTRS has already made some important moves in support of a more sustainable future. Over the last year, it divested from thermal coal companies, initiated a $2.5 billion low-carbon index fund, and has launched groundbreaking discussions on social responsibility – expanding the idea of a purely financial duty to its members to include a consideration of climate change, and the impacts it threatens on the well-being of our entire planet. These efforts on the part of CalSTRS are significant, and show an admirable dedication to conscientious investment. However, it may be time for an even stronger statement.

Despite efforts made by CalSTRS to engage in meaningful dialogue with oil and gas companies, big businesses have not shown any response, nor any intention of getting serious about climate change mitigation. It is time to demonstrate to the fossil fuel sector that people are ready to take committed steps on climate progress, and ready to put their money where their mouth is. Moreover, divestment is not purely an environmental move – it also makes economic sense.

If nations are to hold themselves to the goals of the Paris Agreement, keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius, then 80 percent of coal, oil, and gas reserves must stay in the ground. And with 80 percent of fossil fuel reserves unburnable, essentially worthless, stranded assets, they hardly present a sound investment. Tell CalSTRS, and the larger CalPERS, to commit to total fossil fuel divestment by 2020, for a future of environmental and economic security.


Dear Mr. Ailman,

I am writing to request that your public pension funds, CalSTRS and CalPERS, commit to full divestment from all fossil fuel holdings by the year 2020. I understand that CalSTRS has already begun taking action to combat climate change, and I applaud your efforts in divesting from thermal coal companies, as well the low-carbon fund you created, and your ground-breaking dialogue on the nature of fiduciary duty. In representing your members, you must understand that climate change poses a severe threat to public health and well-being, as well as economic assets.

Eighty percent of coal, oil, and gas reserves are going to have to stay in the ground if the world plans on keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius, as set forth by the Paris Agreement. This means that unless fossil fuel companies are prepared to significantly modify their business practices, they’re about to be left with a lot of worthless, stranded assets. This does not make a very promising investment.

I urge you to commit to full divestment from coal, oil, and gas companies by the year 2020. The state of California has demonstrated climate leadership in many ways – let divestment be one of them. The world is beginning to get serious about mitigating climate change, it’s time we put our money where our mouth is.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Robert Silvey

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One Comment

  1. Gen Lovyet Agustsson says:

    don’t be gambling with money on everything!

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