The District of Columbia government pension fund has divested from fossil fuel.
In September, D.C. pledged to curb its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Consistent with that aim, the District of Columbia Retirement Board has scrubbed its $6.4 billion pension fund of investments in the 200 largest publicly traded coal, oil and gas companies.
“I applaud the D.C Retirement Board for doing right by all Washingtonians,” said D.C. Council member Charles Allen. “In the past, divestment has proven to be an incredibly powerful tool for effecting positive change. By divesting from fossil fuels D.C. has helped pave the way for a brighter, better future.” Tomorrow, the D.C. council will vote on a resolution commending the Retirement Board for divesting from fossil fuels.
The move comes amidst worries about the long-term viability of fossil fuel investments. Last year, California’s public pension funds lost $5 billion on fossil fuel investments thanks to declining oil and coal prices. The state government subsequently mandated California’s two largest public pension funds to divest from coal. The District of Columbia faces similar concerns.
“The decision to divest shows that D.C. takes seriously its responsibility to protect pensioners from risky fossil fuel investments,” said Jesse White, a District of Columbia Public Schools teacher and D.C Retirement Board beneficiary. “As the U.S. continues to transition to a clean energy economy, our investments must follow suit.”
Today’s announcement follows a three-year campaign led by DC Divest, a citizens group advocating for fossil fuel divestment. A spokesman for the group said D.C. “has taken a critical step in creating the political will for climate action.”
Globally, investors managing more than $3.4 trillion in assets have pledged to divest from fossil fuels. Among the more notable examples, Stanford University has said it will divest from coal companies. Norway’s government pension fund is also ditching coal. More recently, the Rockefeller Family Fund, created by descendants of oil tycoon J.D. Rockefeller, promised to withdraw its fossil fuel investments.
For a growing number of investors, coal, oil an gas represent a risky asset. For advocates, divestment remains a moral cause.
“The logic of divestment couldn’t be simpler: if it’s wrong to wreck the climate, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage,” wrote climate activist Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone. “The hope is that divestment is one way to weaken those companies — financially, but even more politically.”
McKibben tweeted that the District of Columbia’s decision to divest from fossil fuels was a “big victory.”