Divestment

“SoCal 350 Climate Action joins forces with Fossil Free LA”

What is Divestment?

“Divestment is the opposite of an investment – it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous.

When you invest your money, you might buy stocks, bonds, or other investments that generate income for you. Universities (and colleges in the US), religious organizations, retirement funds, and other institutions put billions in these same kinds of investments to generate income to help them run. Fossil fuel investments are a risk for both investors and the planet, so we’re calling on institutions to divest from these companies.”

Learn more at Go Fossil Free from 350.org.

Recent History of the Movement

As of September, 2014, the total value of private and governmental entities that had pledged to divest their assets from fossil fuels was $50 billion.  By November, 2015, three weeks before the Paris UN Climate negotiations, this number had grown over 50-fold, so that 350’s May Boeve could report in Paris that 436 institutions and 2,040 individuals across 43 countries and representing $2.6 trillion in assets had committed to divest from fossil fuel companies.  A few big events helped achieve this staggering success.  First, on June 5th, 2015, the Norwegian Parliament voted to order the country’s huge oil fund — at $890 billion, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund — to pull billions of dollars of investments out of companies that derive 30 percent or more of their business from mining or burning coal.  And in October Governor Brown signed into law SB 185, mandating that California’s two giant pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, divest from companies that get more than half their income from thermal coal.  And all this divestment is helping capital to flow into renewable energy projects.  Those institutions and individuals that have pledged to both divest and invest in clean energy collectively hold $785 billion in assets.

What’s Happening Now?

This jaw-dropping surge in global divestment activity has not been matched here in LA.  A City Councilmember with a motion for divestment has been looking for another Councilmember to second it without success, and several resolutions from Neighborhood Councils supporting divestment have not yet raised the issue to a level that would stimulate action.  

Currently a 350.org- initiated local divestment group called Fossil Free LA, which wrote the divestment motion, has taken a few actions and gotten some Neighborhood Council support, but so far has not engaged the funds beyond making some public comments at fund board meetings.   Since a more committed effort is needed, SoCal 350 Climate Action has met with Fossil Free LA and has provided them with an expanded force of advocates to reach out to the funds, to the unions whose members contribute to the funds, to City Council members, and to Neighborhood Councils.  This expanded platoon of volunteers includes a researcher to explore the relationship between City Council and the funds’ boards, to acquire lists of the funds’ assets and how they have changed over the years, and to assess the political composition of the boards, who appoints members and to whom they are beholden.

We Need You!

The rest of the team will comprise an event- planning committee to arrange events from a City Hall press conference to petition drives in local farmers’ markets.  Finally, the group will enlist professionals in the investment consulting business to make comment before the boards and before elected leaders.

Both SoCal 350 Climate Action and Fossil Free LA want our divestment successes to match LA’s climate leadership reputation.  To secure divestment commitments from our local pension funds and the LA City’s investment portfolio would help achieve this goal.

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