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Lindsay Meiman, firstname.lastname@example.org
A first-of-its-kind comprehensive report released today from the Climate Safe Pensions Network and Stand.earth reveals that only 14 US pension and permanent funds finance fossil fuels to the tune of $81.6 billion, bankrolling an outsized proportion of the coal, oil, and gas industry.
The full report can be found here.
Amy Gray, Stand.earth, Senior Climate Finance Strategist, said:
"Public pension funds are the quiet culprits of climate chaos. With 10 years of data, there's hard evidence: divestment is a winning financial strategy. The fastest way for pensions to address climate change is to divest fossil fuel holdings and invest in just and equitable climate solutions."
The real-world impacts and conflicts these investments generate are being exposed right now. Nine of the funds listed in the report invest over $281 million in TC Energy, the company behind the controversial Coastal GasLink pipeline violating Indigenous rights in Wet'suwet'en land, including militarized police raids in British Columbia, Canada. The pension funds also have over $3.24 billion invested in big tar sands miners Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and Suncor.
Since the launch of the fossil fuel divestment movement, a decade of data shows early adopters of divestment strategies report neutral or positive financial results. From increasing stranded risk to the cost of capital for fossil fuel projects doubling, material risks for fossil fuel corporations are proven long-term and structural.
In the US, the cost of climate disasters doubled in 2020, costing at least $95 billion in immediate recovery. To date, 1500 institutions globally representing $39.88 trillion in assets have committed to some level of divestment.
Pensions makeup 11.8% of commitments, including notable divestment actions from Baltimore, Maryland, New York City and State, and the state of Maine. Most recently San Diego announced its intention to divest its $2.3 billion municipal portfolio from fossil fuels.
TOTAL FOSSIL FUND FUEL INVESTMENTS (USD)
Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC)
Alaska Retirement Management Board (ARMB)
California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS)
California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS)
Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund (CTPF)
Colorado Public Employees' Retirement Association (PERA)
Maine Public Employees Retirement System (MainePERS)
Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Trust (PRIT)
Minnesota State Board of Investment (MSBI)
New Jersey Pension Funds (NJ)
New York State Teachers' Retirement System (NYSTRS)
Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS)
San Mateo County Employees' Retirement Association (SamCERA)
Washington State Investment Board (WSIB)
Nick Limbeck, Chicago teacher and divestment organizer, said:
"We have only 6 1/2 years before we hit 1.5 C of warming which will trigger climate feedback loops that will send global warming spiraling out of control, yet our Chicago Teachers Pension Fund still has $600 million invested in fossil fuel companies. As teachers, we are called upon to nurture the next generation. The time is now to divest from fossil fuels. Let us give our students a chance to live and thrive in a world without climate catastrophe.
Maine Youth for Climate Justice, said:
"The primary duty of the Maine Public Employee Retirement System (MainePERS) is to ensure that the pension fund is well-funded and protected from large and unnecessary risk. These fossil fuel companies are exactly the kind of risk that they are mandated to minimize. The bottom line is that fossil fuels are not a safe investment for Maine, not safe for future generations, and not safe for the public employees relying upon this pension fund to support them as they age."
Andrew Bogrand, Divest Oregon Communications Director, said:
"This report reveals just how pension funds are silently bankrolling the climate crisis, which we are already experiencing here in Oregon. Following deadly heatwaves and costly forest fires, more and more Oregonians are urging the Oregon State Treasury to invest in a fossil-free future. Unfortunately, we do not know the extent of our state's investment in the carbon economy. This is why we are urging the Oregon State Treasury to act transparently and disclose all of its fossil fuel holdings. Decarbonizing our retirement starts with following the money!"
Jordan Dale, Divest NY, said:
"It is disturbing and unacceptable that so many pension fund boards and managers, whose mission is to provide for the secure future of their members, insist on supporting fossil fuel companies, which are systematically engaged in destroying that future, not just for the members, but for all of us.
Jane Vosburg, Fossil Free California Board President and CalSTRS beneficiary, said:
"It is unconscionable for any fund, especially teachers' pensions like my CalSTRS pension, to continue investing close to $16 billion in an industry that has caused this existential climate crisis. Costly wildfires throughout the state have already razed communities and schools and relocated and traumatized our students. Since 2014, teachers, like me, students, and local teachers' unions representing 160,000 beneficiaries have been urging CalSTRS board members (two of whom support divestment) to divest."
Deborah McNamara, Campaign Director at 350 Colorado, said:
"Maintaining the status quo of fossil fuel energy production and investments will unquestionably lead to a self-created catastrophe. Therefore the State of Colorado's state pension fund - Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) has an ethical responsibility to take steps to avert this disastrous result. Attempting to profit from investments in companies whose profits depend almost exclusively on the continuation of practices that cause climate breakdown (and adding insult to injury, losing money on those investments) is unacceptable and puts Colorado and PERA on the wrong side of history."
Tina Weishaus, Co-Chair of Divest NJ, said:
"There is only one strategy to protect the long term interests of NJ State Pension members from the existential threat of climate change and that is to divest from the billions of dollars that the Pension has in fossil fuel investments. Delay is folly!"
The Corporate Responsibility Action Group with Mothers Out Front MA, said:
"In Massachusetts we have an immediate opportunity to use the data in this Report to identify the fossil fuel investments in our state pension. Fortunately, we have a legislature working to move money out of risky fossil fuel investments and into fossil free options to protect our pensioners, taxpayers and communities, especially the most vulnerable low income communities. The data in this Report will be critical to the success of their efforts as we and future generations suffer the increasing damage and losses due to the climate crisis."
Doug Woodby, 350Juneau, said:
"This report gives Alaskans the first in-depth analysis of fossil fuel related investments held by the Permanent Fund, accounting for at least 6% of the funds $82 billion at the end of the 2021 fiscal year, as well as the Alaska state pension funds having over $1 billion in fossil fuel related stocks and bonds. These fossil fuel investments are not only contributing to climate chaos, by financing exploration and extraction of carbon-based energy, but they also risk significant monetary loss as the world turns to renewable energy. Divesting from fossil fuels is critically important for preserving the value of these funds for our pensioners, as well as for avoiding the worst of climate change impacts."
Bobbie Mooney, Fossil Free PERA Spokesperson & Colorado PERA member, said:
"PERA owes the same fiduciary duty to members retiring today and members retiring 30 years from now. Everyone's interests should be aligned when it comes to fossil fuel investments. It's time to move our money to safer investments, both for better returns today and a viable future for PERA members of my generation and beyond."
Devon Reynolds, Colorado PERA member, University of Colorado Graduate Student Employe, said:
"PERA should follow the lead of the New York State Comptroller, who announced that his office will decarbonize the pension fund's full portfolio by 2040 with interim targets, completing a systematic review of all fossil fuel investments within four years, including divesting from any companies which don't have a plan to leave fossil fuels behind. This includes transitioning their business away from oil and gas production, servicing or transportation, and alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement. As long as PERA's money remains invested in the fossil fuel industry, that investment supports an industry that has willfully denied its role in climate change, accelerating today's climate crisis in favor of profits. PERA must divest from fossil fuels."
Stand.earth (formerly ForestEthics) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with offices in Canada and the United States that is known for its groundbreaking research and successful corporate and citizens engagement campaigns to create new policies and industry standards in protecting forests, advocating the rights of indigenous peoples, and protecting the climate. Visit us at
"It is clear from this week's negotiations that oil-producing countries and the fossil fuel industry will do everything in their power to weaken the treaty and delay the process," said one Greenpeace USA campaigner.
As the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee wrapped up in Paris with an agreement to develop the first draft of a Global Plastics Treaty by November, climate, environmental, and other advocacy groups on Friday urged governments not to allow fossil fuel and other corporate interests to water down the landmark accord.
"Time is running out and it is clear from this week's negotiations that oil-producing countries and the fossil fuel industry will do everything in their power to weaken the treaty and delay the process," Graham Forbes, Greenpeace USA's global plastics campaign lead, said in a statement. "While some substantive discussions have taken place, there is still a huge amount of work ahead of us."
"Plastic pollution and the climate crisis are two sides of the same coin," Forbes added. "The Global Plastics Treaty must tackle plastic production head-on. This will align with the need to stay within 1.5℃ and move the world away from its plastic addiction. Anything else less than that, and the treaty will fail."
\u201cWhy do we need a Global Plastics Treaty?\n\nBig oil and big brands continue to make a profit while indigenous peoples, marginalised and affected communities bear the brunt of social injustice and the climate and plastic crisis.\n\n\ud83e\uddf5[1/2]\u201d— Greenpeace Africa (@Greenpeace Africa) 1685710817
Governments from around 170 nations, NGOs, and plastics industry lobbyists spent the week at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters in the French capital hammering out the framework for the world's first treaty aimed at reducing plastic pollution.
Though the first half of the five-day negotiations was spent arguing over procedural issues, delegations split into two groups to discuss the range of control measures that can be taken to stop plastic pollution as well as whether countries should develop national plans or set global targets to tackle the problem.
By the session's close on Friday, countries agreed to prepare a "zero draft" text of what would become a legally binding plastics treaty and to work between negotiation sessions on key questions such as the scope and principles of the future treaty.
The "zero draft" text would reflect options from the wide-ranging positions of different countries by the start of the next round of talks to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, in November.
Ana Rocha, who directs the Global Plastics Program at GAIA, lamented that the conference "hosted at least 190 industry lobbyists, who used their access and infinite resources to promote tech-fixes like chemical 'recycling,' and plastic credits, while fenceline communities, waste pickers, Indigenous peoples, youth, and other members of civil society most impacted by plastic pollution had very limited opportunity to hold the mic."
"If we are to achieve a strong plastics treaty, member states must listen to and represent their people, not the very industry that is profiting from this crisis," Rocha added.
\u201cTAKE ACTION \u27a1\ufe0f Plastic pollution is a global problem that needs a global solution. International leaders are working toward a treaty to fully address the plastic problem. Add your voice: Urge the @StateDept to help make that happen.\nhttps://t.co/gduEUEa1O6\u201d— Center for Biological Diversity (@Center for Biological Diversity) 1685733905
Julie Teel Simmonds, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, praised the United States for helping to "jumpstart substantive talks in Paris," however, she added that the U.S. "must come to the next session with a bold commitment to cut plastic production."
"The U.S. hasn't yet been willing to put the reduction of plastic production front and center in this treaty, and we can't curb pollution without drastically scaling back its creation," she asserted. "At the next negotiations, the United States should take direct aim at the pervasive plastic that's infiltrating every corner of our planet by hitting hard on production."
"You can't address poverty in a world of climate chaos," one advocacy group told Ajay Banga. "End fossil fuel finance now!"
Climate advocates on Friday held a demonstration outside the World Bank Group's headquarters in Washington, D.C., where they welcomed the bank's new president, Ajay Banga, and implored him to immediately begin pursuing a global just transition.
Campaigners from the Glasgow Actions Team, Global Citizen, Friends of the Earth, and Big Shift Global handed their "First 100 Days" demands to World Bank staffers as they entered the building, making the case on Banga's first day at the helm that he should prioritize four key goals over the next few months: end fossil fuel finance, ramp up clean energy funding, cancel debt for poor nations facing myriad crises, and align the bank's policies with the Paris agreement's goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
"It's not often we feel hope in the climate movement, but today, with a new World Bank president having publicly committed to taking climate change seriously, we're feeling hopeful," Glasgow Actions Team director Andrew Nazdin said in a statement. "But President Banga doesn't have a moment to lose; the time is now to announce plans to move away from fossil fuels and help the globe transition to clean energy in a just and equitable manner."
Activists hand their "First 100 Days" demands to World Bank staffers in Washington, D.C. on June 2, 2023.(Photo: Eric Kayne/AP Images for Glasgow Actions Team)
Climate advocates cheered in February when former World Bank President David Malpass, nominated to lead the bank by then-U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019, said that he would step down this spring, nearly a year ahead of schedule.
The early resignation announcement followed a sustained pressure campaign against Malpass, who was condemned as a "climate denier" after refusing to acknowledge that burning fossil fuels causes the planet-heating pollution underlying increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather disasters.
U.S. President Joe Biden's ensuing decision to tap Banga for the role angered progressives, who argued that the erstwhile private equity executive and former Mastercard CEO is likely to advance the powerful international financial institution's historically pro-corporate and pro-fossil fuel agenda. When the World Bank's board of governors ratified Banga's presidency in early May—appointing the Biden nominee to a five-year term with a June 2 start date—the bank's new leader suggested that a "climate change shift" was coming.
On the eve of Banga's first day in office, Big Shift Global acknowledged that his stated belief in climate science is an improvement over the status quo. But whether he leads the World Bank in "the right direction on climate" remains an open question, the international campaign noted, reiterating its demands for "a phaseout of fossil fuel finance and support for a just, clean energy transition."
Luisa Abbott Galvao, senior international policy campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S., pointed out that "Ajay Banga has spent his career chasing profits for shareholders rather than working in the public interest."
"But he could still commit to a different legacy from his climate change-denying predecessor, David Malpass," said Galvao. "We call on Banga to pledge an end to World Bank financing for fossil fuels on his first day in office. When science says new fossil fuel developments are incompatible with the 1.5°C pathway, a failure to act is effectively climate denial."
\u201cWe gathered at @WorldBank with a message to the Bank's new president, Ajay Banga\ud83d\udce2\n\nIt's not too late to change your legacy from chasing profits to leading the Bank toward real climate action.\n\nDon't be like your climate-denying predecessor, David Malpass!\u201d— Friends of the Earth (Action) (@Friends of the Earth (Action)) 1685727500
For its part, the Glasgow Actions Team tweeted, "While Ajay Banga is inside addressing his staff, we're outside showing him how easy it is to truly shift the World Bank to act on climate change!"
"You can't address poverty in a world of climate chaos," the group added. "End fossil fuel finance now!"
Big Shift Global showed in a recent report that the World Bank has directly financed at least $14.8 billion in fossil fuel production since the signing of the Paris agreement in 2015—reneging on its 2017 pledge to stop supporting oil and gas projects within two years.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency have made clear that fossil fuel expansion will cause the climate emergency's consequences to grow even deadlier, especially for humanity's poorest members who have done the least to cause the crisis.
Global Citizen noted Friday that impoverished countries on the frontlines of mounting socio-ecological catastrophes "can't tackle climate change when they're drowning in debt" and urged Banga to implement a debt jubilee in addition to subsidizing a green overhaul of the global economy.
The group also took out a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal, calling on Banga to begin transforming the World Bank into an instrument for genuinely sustainable development on his first day.
\u201c@GlblCtzn placed this in today\u2019s @WSJ to coincide with Ajay Banga\u2019s first day as the new head of the @WorldBank\u2b55\ufe0f\u201d— Global Citizen Impact (@Global Citizen Impact) 1685721724
"As the new president, what will your legacy be?" the ad asks. "In the face of the triple climate, poverty, and hunger crises, the world's biggest development bank stands at a critical juncture."
"Under your guidance, the World Bank could serve as an invaluable partner for low-income countries and those vulnerable to climate change," it continues. "The solutions are on the table."
"Make your first steps bold," says the ad. "Working alongside other multilateral development banks, help mobilize $1 trillion more in financing to help the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries quicken their transition to clean energy, withstand disasters, and power our planet."
"Essentially, whatever they call climate finance is climate finance," said one developing nation's lead climate negotiator.
Wealthy nations are spending money under the guise of "climate finance" to fund projects that have little or nothing to do with tackling the climate crisis and—as in the case of three Japanese-backed coal plants—are sometimes fueling the planetary emergency, according to a Reutersinvestigation published Thursday.
While media outlets including Reuters have recently reported that rich countries are on track—albeit long overdue—to finally meet their 2009 pledge to invest $100 billion annually in climate financing by 2020, the new Reuters investigation shows that governments are funding climate-harming projects and counting the expenditures toward their giving total.
"This is the wild, wild West of finance," Mark Joven, an undersecretary in the Philippines Department of Finance and the country's lead climate negotiator, told Reuters. "Essentially, whatever they call climate finance is climate finance."
\u201cWealthy countries have pledged $100 billion a year to help end the #climatecrisis. \n\nBut it turns out that large sums have ended up in strange projects - including a coal plant, a hotel and chocolate shops \ud83e\udd2f https://t.co/LkDtXRCNsz\u201d— Greenpeace International (@Greenpeace International) 1685718012
The Japanese government has lent at least $9 billion for projects that are dependent upon fossil fuels. These include a 1,200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Matarbari, Bangladesh, coal plants in Vietnam and Indonesia, and a new terminal at Egypt's Borg al-Arab Airport. The Matarbari plant is expected to add 6.8 million tons of carbon dioxide to the Earth's atmosphere every year, while the airport terminal is forecast to increase outbound flight emissions by about 50% over 2013 levels.
Japanese officials have attempted to justify the investments by portraying the coal plant as an improvement because it uses Japanese technology that generates more energy with less coal, while calling the new terminal an "Eco-Airport" replete with energy-saving solar panels, high-efficiency air conditioning, and LED light bulbs.
However, Wayne King, director of climate change for the Cook Islands—a self-governing South Pacific nation in free association with New Zealand—took exception with Japan's characterization.
"Basically, that's a development project," King said of the Egyptian airport project. "You can't count it, because the motivation is wrong."
\u201cThis is utterly absurd! \n\u201cWealthy countries have pledged $100 billion a year to help reduce the effects of global warming. But Reuters found large sums going to projects including a coal plant, a hotel and chocolate shops\u201d\n#ClimateJustice #LossAndDamage\nhttps://t.co/Mnb2mzZG2C\u201d— Prof. Farhana Sultana (@Prof. Farhana Sultana) 1685675967
Other examples of questionable climate financing in the Reuters report include an agreement by the United States to loan $19.5 million to the developers of a Marriot hotel in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti; a Belgian backing of an Argentinian film about a man who works to destroy forests for a paper company before falling in love with an environmental activist; and a $4.7 million Italian investment in a chain of chocolate and gelato shops across Asia.
According to the report:
Some countries count projects that never happened toward climate finance goals. France reported a $118.1 million loan to a Chinese bank for environmental initiatives, as well as loans totaling $267.5 million for upgrades to a metro system in Mexico and $107.6 million for port improvements in Kenya. Each project was subsequently canceled with no funds paid out, according to the French Development Agency. Similarly, the U.S. reported $7 million in insurance coverage for a hydropower project in South Africa that never happened.
Iqbal Kabir, an official in the Bangladeshi Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, told Reuters that "people deserve more" than the misallocation of climate funds for projects like coal plants, while criticizing countries that are "spending [climate funds] on other projects, depriving the issues like women's health, children's health, and salinity intrusion."
Matthew Samuda, a minister in Jamaica's Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, added that "if we are telling ourselves we are spending money and investing in our future in a way that we are not, then we are courting disaster."