Ten U.S. Cities Commit to Pursue Fossil Fuel Divestment

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jamie Henn, 350.org Communications Director, jamie@350.org, 415-601-9337
Daniel Kessler, 350.org Media Campaigner, dk@350.org, 510-501-1779

Ten U.S. Cities Commit to Pursue Fossil Fuel Divestment

Cities add momentum a national movement that has spread to over 300 colleges and universities across the country

SEATTLE - The Mayor of Seattle, 350.org, and the Mayors Innovation Project announced today that nine mayors and city councils across the country are joining the Mayor of Seattle in urging their cities to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies because of the industry’s responsibility for the climate crisis.

“Divestment is just one of the steps we can take to address the climate crisis,” said Mayor Mike McGinn of Seattle, who this November urged the city’s pension fund to divest from the fossil fuel industry and is now encouraging other mayors to do the same. “Cities that do so will be leaders in creating a new model for quality of life, environmental sustainability and economic success. We’ve got a head start on that here in Seattle, but there’s a lot more work to do.”

The other cities who have agreed to pursue divestment include: Madison, WI, Bayfield, WI, Ithaca, NY, Boulder, CO, Rochester, MN, Eugene, OR, Richmond, CA, Berkeley, CA, and San Francisco, CA. In San Francisco, the city’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to urge the cities $16 billion pension fund to divest over $583 million from the fossil fuel industry. Elsewhere, the mayors have agreed to pursue ways to keep their city funds out of fossil fuel companies and urge either their city or state pension fund to divest.

Today’s announcement marked the official launch of the city and state divestment campaign, which is led by the Mayors Innovation Project and 350.org, an international climate campaign.

"Cities are taking the lead on the issue of climate change" said Joel Rogers, Director of the Mayors Innovation Project. "In the face of federal and state inaction, cities know they have to protect themselves."

In Richmond, home to a Chevron oil refinery that is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California and a major contributor to respiratory health problems in the city, the divestment campaign has particular resonance.

"Richmond is home to the 2nd largest oil refinery and largest point source of greenhouse gas emissions in California,” said Richmond, CA Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. "I am proud to join with other cities in this divestment campaign, as we divest from an industry that is wreaking havoc on our community and planet, and reinvest in a clean energy economy with new jobs for our residents."

In Ithaca, NY, 26-year old Mayor Svante Myrick, one of the youngest mayors and youngest African-Americans elected in US history, agreed to pursue divestment after meeting with a group of local high school students who urged him to act in order to protect their future.

“The City of Ithaca does not invest in fossil fuels and I can certainly commit, as long as I am Mayor, to not investing City funds in fossil fuels,” said Mayor Myrick earlier this week. “The commitment these young people have shown to safeguarding our environment should serve as an inspiration to us all.”

According to 350.org, divestment petitions are already up and running in 100 other cities and states across the country. Modeled on the anti-apartheid campaigns of the 1980s, the fossil fuel divestment campaign started last fall at colleges and universities and has now spread to over 300 campuses across the country. Four colleges, Unity, Hampshire, Sterling, and College of the Atlantic, have agreed to divestment. The new city commitments are a big boost for the campaign.

“It's so fitting that American cities are taking the lead in the fight to weaken the fossil fuel industry's political power,” said Bill McKibben, a prominent environmentalist and founder of 350.org. “Since every city public works department is already spending scads of cash to deal with the gathering storms and rising seas climate change is bringing, it's clear it makes no sense for them to also prop up the industries that make it necessary.”

For many, concerns about climate change are driving this new divestment effort. The campaign is specifically targeting the 200 companies that own the vast majority of the world’s coal, oil and gas reserves. Those reserves contain five times more carbon dioxide than scientists say society can emit and still keep global warming below 2°C, a limit that nearly every country on Earth, including the United States, has agreed to meet.

Fossil fuel divestment may prove to be a good financial move, as well. A recent study by the Aperio Group, a financial advisory firm, concluded that fossil fuel divestment would increase a portfolio’s risk by only around 0.01%. The report’s lead author, Patrick Geddes, a former CFO for MorningStar and former analyst for the oil company Amoco, told reporters on a recent webinar that, “Statistically, it’s basically noise.”

At the same time, many are raising concerns about the risks of staying invested in the fossil fuel industry. According to a new report by HSBC, if countries agree to meet the 2°C target and pass regulations strong enough to keep 75-80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, the write off of those reserves could cause loss in market value of up to 60% for fossil fuel companies like BP, Shell, and Chevron. Earlier this year, Oxford University launched a new program to study the risk a “carbon bubble” could pose to the market.

Over the coming months, 350.org, the Mayors Innovation Project, and other partners will continue to spread the divestment to campaign to more cities and states across the country, with the goal of convincing some of the largest pension funds in the US to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

Contact Information:

At 350.org: Jamie Henn, jamie@350.org, 415-601-9337
At Mayors Innovation Project: James Irwin, jirwin@cows.org, 608-262-6585
In Richmond, CA: Mayor Gail McLaughlin, Mayor@officeofthemayor.net, 510-620-6503
In Ithaca, NY: Julie Conley Holcomb, City Clerk, julieh@cityofithaca.org, 607-274-6570
In Seattle, WA: Aaron Pickus, Aaron.Pickus@seattle.gov, 425-418-7606
In San Francisco, CA: Jeremy Pollock, Office of Supervisor John Avalos, jeremy.pollock@sfgov.org, 415-554-7910

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350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth. But solutions exist. All around the world, a movement is building to take on the climate crisis, to get humanity out of the danger zone and below 350. This movement is massive, it is diverse, and it is visionary. We are activists, scholars, and scientists. We are leaders in our businesses, our churches, our governments, and our schools. We are clean energy advocates, forward-thinking politicians, and fearless revolutionaries. And we are united around the world, driven to make our planet livable for all who come after us.

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