Impending Peabody Bankruptcy Ups Pressure on VT to Divest

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Lindsay Meiman, (347) 460-9082

Impending Peabody Bankruptcy Ups Pressure on VT to Divest

BURLINGTON, VT - International climate campaign 350.org is urging Treasurer Beth Pearce and the Vermont Pension Investment Committe (VPIC) to move forward with fossil fuel divestment and make a preliminary recommendation to the State Legislature by May 2. A letter sent by a majority of Senators requested Treasurer Pearce report back on divestment recommendations by May 2. 

350.org co-founder and strategy director Jamie Henn issued a statement on Monday urging Treasurer Pearce and VPIC to stop dragging their feet and take action:

“With coal stocks plummeting, major companies declaring bankruptcy, and ExxonMobil under investigation for lying to the public about climate change, there couldn’t be a better time to divest. Over 500 institutions, from Stanford University to the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund have already divested. Instead of VPIC dragging its feet and trying run out the clock on the Legislature, the Treasurer and VPIC should take seriously the legislative request for recommendations.

Legislators have heard plenty of hyperbole from the Treasurer that divesting will incur heavy fees, without corresponding facts or data to back that up. We hope that by May 2, the Treasurer will pick up the phone to call Vermont’s investment managers and ask them, as part of managing Vermont’s $4 billion in investments, to screen out ExxonMobil and coal investments, just like they already do for tobacco.”

Henn challenged VPIC chair Tom Golonka’s assertions that divesting from coal and Exxon would have “minimal impact” and cost the state money or increase risk for the pension fund.

“Why is Chair Golonka not more concerned that coal stocks have plummeted 95% in the last five years and show no sign of recovery? Meanwhile, fossil free index funds are outperforming the overall market with study after study showing that divestment won’t increase a portfolio’s risk profile. If Vermont had divested four years ago when this campaign started, it would have saved a boatload of money. There’s simply no financial reason not to divest--and plenty of evidence to suggest this is the wise fiduciary move. Divestment will reduce carbon risk in Vermont’s portfolio and send a powerful signal that the state is committed to climate action.”

Coal, Oil and Gas companies, as a sector, have lost 25% of their value over the last five years. Since 2012, over 500 institutions representing $3.4 trillion in assets have made some form of divestment commitment. Last week, the Rockefeller Family Fund became the most recent institution to divest from ExxonMobil, calling the company “morally reprehensible.”

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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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