| Blog Post

California pensions must divest from fossil fuels

March for fossil fuel divestment, October 2021 in Sacramento. Photo by The Climate Center.

Against the backdrop of an oil and gas production surge across the United States and alarming warming trends across the globe, a California bill introduced last year is gaining traction to slow fossil fuel expansion. SB 252 (Gonzalez), the California Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, would require the two largest public pension funds in the United States — the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) — to divest from oil and gas. 

SB 252 will slow climate-wrecking oil and gas development by cutting off two critical sources of funding. Together, CalPERS and CalSTRS have more than $14 billion invested in fossil fuel corporations that are building oil pipelines and fracked gas wells.

We are grateful to Senator Lena Gonzalez for authoring this bill and are proud to have recently joined Fossil Free California and the California Faculty Association in co-sponsoring SB 252. Divesting from fossil fuels benefits the climate as well as frontline communities that suffer the most from exposure to toxic oil and gas operations every day. Check out this powerful Fossil Free California map showing how these pensions are funding oil and gas drilling across California. 

A report last year revealed that California public employees and teacher retirement funds lost more than $9.6 billion by not divesting from fossil fuels ten years ago. Furthermore, more than 15 statewide unions representing 480,000 California workers and 140 organizations have signed on in support of SB 252. 

While CalPERS and CalSTRS have claimed they can coax Big Oil into being climate stewards, it’s clear that’s not happening. Shell recently weakened its 2030 carbon reduction target, Chevron is aiming to extract 1 million barrels of oil a day by 2025 from the Permian Basin, and ExxonMobil’s Permian Basin extraction is expected to soar to 1.3 million barrels per day in 2024. Oil and gas companies have demonstrated time and again that they have no intention of shifting to clean energy

The conservative International Energy Agency has been clear that the world must stop all new fossil fuel projects to avoid catastrophic planetary heating. More than 1,600 universities, pension funds, and governments have already divested over $40.6 trillion of their fossil fuel assets to date. SB 252 will cut two additional and significant sources of funding for Big Oil’s new and deadly extraction efforts. Please take time today to urge your assemblymember to vote yes on SB 252. 

This blog first appeared in The Climate Center’s bi-weekly newsletter. To keep up with the latest climate news and ways to take action for a climate-safe future, subscribe today!