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Resolution Introduced to Push San Francisco to Divest from Fossil Fuels

2/18/2013 10:24:26 AM

Tags: fossil fuels, fossil fuel divestment, fossil fuel reserve

The following news release is provided by

February 5, San Francisco District 11 Supervisor John Avalos introduced a resolution urging the Retirement Board of the San Francisco Employee’s Retirement System (SFERS) to divest from the 200 corporations that hold the majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves. If the resolution is approved by the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco would become the second city in the nation to pursue fossil fuel divestment. 

“San Francisco has aggressive goals to address climate change,” said Supervisor John Avalos. “It’s important that we apply these same values when we decide how to invest our funds, so we can limit our financial contributions to fossil fuels and instead promote renewable alternatives.”

If the resolution is approved by the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco would become the second city in the nation to pursue fossil fuel divestment. This December, the Mayor of Seattle pledged to keep city funds out of the fossil fuel industry and urged the city’s pension funds to consider divestment. Avalos is also introducing a resolution today to push SFERS to divest from arms manufacturers.

The push for fossil fuel divestment is part of a new national campaign, Go Fossil Free, that has spread to over 230 colleges and universities across the country. The effort is modeled on the 1980s movement to divest from apartheid South Africa. So far, two small schools, Unity College and Hampshire College, have divested from fossil fuels.

“I'm sure San Francisco will join Seattle in a show of Pacific solidarity,” said Bill McKibben, founder of, one of the organizations helping lead the divestment movement. “The Bay Area will spend billions adapting to climate change--it makes no sense at all to simultaneously invest in the corporations making that work necessary.” 

The 200 fossil fuel companies targeted by the Go Fossil Free campaign were chosen because they control the vast majority of the world’s coal, oil and gas reserves. According to top scientists and analysis by groups like the International Energy Agency, nearly 80 percent of those reserves must go unburned if the world is going to keep global warming below 2°C, a target that the United States and nearly every other country on Earth has agreed to meet.

Allowing global warming to proceed unchecked could have a devastating affect on the Bay Area. A recent report by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission found that a 55-inch sea level rise by the end of the century would put $62 billion of Bay Area shoreline development at risk and require at least $14 billion worth of static structures to protect California’s shorelines.

The San Francisco Employee’s Retirement System (SFERS) is a roughly $16 billion pension fund that serves more than 52,000 active and retired employees of the City and County of San Francisco and their survivors. The Retirement Board that manages SFERS is currently looking into the amount of money it has invested in the 200 fossil fuel companies targeted by the divestment campaign, but early estimates put the number above $1 billion.

SFERS could face a potential financial risk by staying invested in the fossil fuel industry, according to a new report by market analysts at HSBC. According to the report, if countries agree to meet the 2° Celcius target and pass regulations strong enough to keep 75-80 percent of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, the write off of those reserves could cause loss in market value of up to 60 percent for fossil fuel companies like BP, Shell, and Chevron.

On the other hand, according to a new report by the Aperio Group, a group of financial advisors based in Marin, fossil fuel divestment poses would increase portfolio risk by a roughly 0.01 percent. The report’s lead author, Patrick Geddes, told reporters on a recent webinar that, “Statistically, it’s basically noise.”

A subcommittee of the Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a hearing on the divestment resolution later in February or in early March. will be mobilizing its local supporters and working with other environmental and progressive allies to build public support for the resolution. 

For more information about this press release visit 

Photo By Fotolia/kropic

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Keith Cossairt
2/19/2013 9:13:23 PM
one of the few dividend paying will be sad when the retirement fund tanks and grandma goes hungry.

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