The largest pension fund in Washington, D.C. has divested its $6.4 billion from 200 of "the world's most polluting fossil fuel companies."
"In doing so, Washington, D.C. has taken a critical step toward addressing climate change, joining the more than 500 cities, philanthropic organizations, faith groups, universities, and other organizations that have divested funds worth a collective $3.4 trillion," wrote grassroots advocacy group DC Divest, which celebrated the hard-won victory that came after three years of campaigning.
"If we're going to take real action on climate change, we must take a hard stance against the fossil fuel industry."
—Matt Grason, DC Divest
"Climate change is a life or death issue here in the District of Columbia, and it disproportionately harms low income families and communities of color," said Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus. "We can't afford to wait any longer. The decision to divest from fossil fuels is an incredible act of leadership that came just in time."
The District of Columbia Retirement Board (DCRB), which runs the pension fund, announced the decision on Monday. On Tuesday, the D.C. city council is set to vote on a ceremonial resolution lauding the DCRB on its decision to divest from fossil fuels.
"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 DCRB beneficiary. "As the U.S. continues to transition to a clean energy economy, our investments must follow suit."
Prominent environmentalist Bill McKibben celebrated the decision on social media:
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Mike Tidwell, director of the local green group Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), also praised the decision:
The District of Columbia Retirement Board deserves our applause for taking bold and decisive action to divest from fossil fuel companies. Global warming is already causing record flooding, heat and storms in D.C. and across our region, threatening our health, economy and future. We must take immediate action, and the District is taking a big step forward by cutting financial ties with oil, gas and coal companies that are responsible for creating this crisis and blocking our path to solutions.
Campaigners took note of the symbolic impact of the nation's capital divesting its pension fund from fossil fuels, and called on Congress to use the momentum to pass critical legislation to combat climate change.
"Time is up for the powers that be to act on climate change. If we're going to take real action on climate change, we must take a hard stance against the fossil fuel industry," said DC Divest spokesperson Matt Grason. "By divesting from fossil fuels, the nation's capital has taken a critical step in creating the political will for climate action. Now it's time for Congress to take note and pass comprehensive legislation to limit the carbon pollution driving climate change."