California calls on pension funds to divest from coal in climate change push
Senate bill to force two state pensions funds – largest in US – to ditch coal is part of effort to generate 50% of power from wind and solar and halve gasoline use
Trucks and cars pass non-polluting windmills along the freeway on near Banning, California. The state aims to promote renewables and decrease reliance on fossil fuels. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
America’s biggest state pension funds came under rising pressure on Tuesday to dump coal companies from their combined $500bn portfolio, in a major escalation of the fossil fuel divestment campaign.
The California senate leader, Kevin de Leon, said he was introducing a bill on Tuesday calling on the two state funds – CalPERS, the public employees’ pension fund, and CalSTRS, the teachers’ pension funds, drop all coal holdings.
The bill is part of a larger package of climate measures – endorsed by Governor Jerry Brown – aimed at gearing up California’s efforts to fight climate change.
The former US vice-president and climate champion Al Gore spoke to the CalSTRS board in Sacramento last Friday. Gore has long argued that fossil fuels are a risky proposition as a long-term investment.
“Our state’s largest pension funds also need to keep their eyes on the future,” De Leon, a Democrat, said in an email. “With coal power in retreat, and the value of coal dropping, we should be moving our massive state portfolios to lower carbon investments and focus on the growing clean-energy economy.”
The two state funds are the biggest targets so far of a divestment movement that has moved from college campuses towards mainstream financial conversation.