Tomorrow, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is going to vote on whether or not to urge the city’s retirement board to divest over half a billion dollars from the fossil fuel industry. This is a landmark resolution to divest the city's pension fund -- one of the largest pools of money the city holds -- from the top 200 fossil fuel companies, and would be by far the largest commitment to divestment by a city to date.
The bad news is that this is going to be a very close call, as divesting 8.7% of holdings in its Employee’s Retirement System is a big deal, even for a city government known for its pioneering spirit and progressive values.
The good news is that if you are a San Francisco resident you can send a quick message to the Board of Supervisors today to make your voice heard in support of divestment. They do read them and numbers matter, especially to supervisors that might be on the fence about this.
This is where the action will be tomorrow morning, and I know that Bill, Jamie and the rest of the 350.org gang will be watching closely. If you're not a SF resident writing a letter you can still send some big love and abracadabra vibes towards this place mañana...
Below, some more thoughts and pics from the hearing a couple of weeks ago when Supervisor John Avalos introduced the resolution that urges the retirement board to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in sustainable alternatives: clean energy, local energy retrofits, and more.
Remember, it's San Francisco, anything can happen!
On April 10 hearing, Supervisor Avalos introduced the Resolution urging the Retirement Board of the Employees’ Retirement System to divest from publicly-traded fossil fuel companies (file #130123):
The San Francisco Employee’s Retirement System should immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuels, and divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years.
Over 50 students, doctors, indigenous leaders, investment advisors, environmentalists, and everyday San Francisco residents turned out for this budget committee hearing to push for divestment.
Room 244 at City Hall was packed and sizzling, something you don't see to often at ordinary hearings. In fact, there was a bunch of city business on the agenda, but when Supervisor Avalos at one point asked who was there for the divestment introduction, every single person in the room raised their hand.
Supervisor Avalos, a very smart and eloquent representative who understands the deeper causes and ramifications of climate change, made the case not only that as a coastal city San Francisco is extremely vulnerable to rising sea-levels costing billions of dollars in infrastructure and property damages, but that the city who prides itself in being visionary and bold has a moral obligation to be an early adopter of the divestment strategy, making it easier for others to follow. Avalos also mentioned the divestment campaigns of tobacco and Apartheid in the 90s as examples of successful campaigns that nobody thought possible at the time.
Next up was Jamie Henn of 350.org, one of the official experts testifying, making a strong moral argument for divestment as well as a tight financial case.
Investment advisors from the Aperio Group explained how divestment would increase portfolio risk by such an insignificant amount that it was basically just background noise. Garvin Jabusch from Green Alpha Advisors showed the benefits of investing in a green economy. Aside from the fact that it is morally wrong to profit from wrecking the planet, a key argument was that investing in fossil fuel companies is investing backwards, as their portfolios will inevitably become less valuable once carbon emissions become more strictly regulated and their true cost apparent. Jabusch pointed out that fossil fuel portfolios might become so risky in the future that they will become subprime assets.
Jay Huish, Executive Director of the San Francisco Employees' Retirement System, gave a rundown of the total fossil fuel holdings in the city's current retirement plan. He said that the city is currently invested in 81 out of the Top 200 fossil fuel companies, constituting $528 million of the city's $8.6 billion in public holdings, or $8.7. He didn't want to answer Supervisor Avalos' question as to how quickly those $528 million could be divested, but indicated that they would and could do it if the city gave that mandate.
Then it was time for the public to step to the mic, and boy, did they ever.
Rebecca Solnit, SF native and author extraordinaire, warned about the instability represented by fossil fuels and pointed out the importance of getting on the right side of history early. She thought a miracle was possible, but only if we are courageous enough to break our bad habits.
Person after person stepped up to the podium, urging their city to show the same early adopter courage and moral compass on divestment that it demonstrated on gay marriage or zero waste. It was really quite heartening, and in the end Supervisor Avalos skillfully maneuvered around a much more skeptical Supervisor Mark Farrell to bring the resolution before the full Board of Supervisors. And that day is tomorrow.
As Jamie Henn writes:
This new divestment movement is already making a big impact: over 300 colleges and universities have joined the campaign and more than 100 cities and towns are now running local petitions. Getting San Francisco to move towards divestment would be a game-changer, but it’s only going to happen if we all pitch in.
If you're in SF, please send a letter to the Supervisors
The planet thanks you!
PS: While you're in letter writing mode, if you haven't yet, today is the last day of the DK Keystone XL blogathon and chance to submit a comment to the Department of State. Bill McKibben posted earlier that we've reached our goal of 1 million comments, but it never hurts to pile on.
#NOKXL Blogathon: April 12 - April 22, 2013
|950,000+ Comments Submitted!
After a extraordinary ten day collaborative effort with our coalition partners, we are less than 50,000 short of our goal of one million comments opposing the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline.
Today is the final day to submit public comments to the United States Department of State in opposition to the Pipeline.
Please help us reach and even exceed this goal!
The deadline for submission of public comments is Today, April 22, 2013.
You Can Make a Difference
On March 1, 2013, the United States State Department released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Presidential Permit application for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The SEIS evaluates the potential environmental impacts. The purpose of this campaign is to obtain one million public comments in opposition to building this environmentally-destructive pipeline. We hope that this blogathon will make submission of public comments easier.
This effort is being coordinated with Bill McKibben of 350.org and in coalition with the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International, and Bold Nebraska.
A victim of the recent tar sands oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, this bird says it all.
Photograph being used with permission from Fast For The Earth.
Today is also the last day of a ten day blogathon at Daily Kos, featuring prominent lawmakers, environmental activists, and Daily Kos diarists. Each has posted a diary in opposition to the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline. Some guests included a brief "sample comment" for readers to copy and submit at the State Department website. The diaries and "sample comments" can be used as your comments! Readers who have specialized knowledge and skills relating to the pipeline, tar sands, climate change, or the petroleum industry may, of course, choose to create their own comments with additional details.
Comments written by you are reviewed by our government with no media filter. Three of our coalition partners will keep track of the number of comments submitted to the U.S. Department of State.
Please submit your comments through one of the below links:
Let your voice be heard. Our Daily Kos community organizers are Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, boatsie, rb137, JekyllnHyde, Onomastic, citisven, peregrine kate, DWG, and John Crapper, with Meteor Blades as the group's adviser.
- "A Million Comments Against Keystone XL" - 350.org will deliver your comments directly to the State Department and has a system set up so that you can customize your comment.
- "Tell President Obama: Reject Keystone XL!" - Sierra Club has a sample public comment that allows you to personalize your message.
- "Tell the State Department: #NoKXL" - Oil Change International has a very helpful template to formulate your comments.
Diary Schedule - All Times Pacific
More helpful details are in this diary - DK Blogathon Hosts Eco Coalition in #NOKXL Public Comment Campaign by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse. Use hashtag #NOKXL to tweet all diaries posted during this blogathon.
1:00 pm: #NOKXL Blogathon: Your voice on the Keystone XL pipeline matters by DWG.
11:00 am: Keystone XL: a pipeline THROUGH the US, not to it by dturnbull, Campaigns Director of Oil Change International.
1:00 pm: #NOKXL: Dilbit in the Pipeline by Agathena.
11:00 am: Keystone XL: Wildlife in the Crosshairs by Target Global Warming, Peter LaFontaine is the Energy Policy Advocate for the National Wildlife Federation.
1:00 pm: #NoKXL: The Future Is In Our Hands; Say No To The XL Pipeline Disaster by beach babe in fl.
3:00 pm: #NoKXL: Guess What's NOT in POTUS' Budget! (Rhymes with Shnipeline) by ericlewis0.
Note: All diaries for this day were rescheduled due to the Boston Marathon bombings.
8:00 am: KXL will carry as much carbon as all the cars on the West Coast, plus Michigan, NY, and Florida. by Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org.
12:00 pm: #NoKXL: InsideClimate News Wins Pulitzer for Coverage of Kalamazoo River Dilbit Spill in 2010 by peregrine kate.
2:00 pm: Reject Keystone XL; Our Focus Should Be on Investing in a Sustainable Energy Future by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA13), Member of the United States House of Representatives.
2:00 pm: #NoKXL: (un)Ethical Pipeline? by A Siegel.
3:00 pm: #NoKXL — The Pipeline To Oblivion: Memes From The Climate Letter Project by WarrenS.
11:00 am: My government doesn't believe in climate change by Tzeporah Berman, Canadian Environmentalist and Co-Founder of Forest Ethics.
3:00 pm: #NoKXL ?? The Keystone XL Pipeline, Deep Time, and the Nature of Humanity by gregladen.
10:00 am: Keystone East: Doubling down? Or admitting KXL defeat? by Roger Fox.
2:00 pm: Watch it Now! Fantastic Live Hearing Opposing Keystone XL Pipeline from Nebraska by JekyllnHyde.
3:00 pm: #NOKXL: The Ill-Logic of Keystone XL by Kelly Rigg, Executive Director of the Global Call for Climate Action.
2:00 pm: #NOKXL - A Dispatch From The Committee To End The Future by joe shikspack.
3:00 pm: Collision With Reality by James Wells.
11:00 am: Nebraska Hearing: Pipeline Fighters Dominated by Jane Kleeb, Executive Director of Bold Nebraska
12:00 pm: Scientific American:"Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Exacerbates Climate Change"-Consultant's Bias EXPOSED by Lefty Coaster
1:00 pm:#NOKXL Blogathon - Keystone Principles and the Line in the Sand by John Crapper
3:00 pm:The 'Un'Silent' Spring by boatsie
11:00 am: Keystone XL Pipeline: Can John Kerry’s State Department Finally Get it Right? by Ross Hammond, Friends of the Earth
12:00 pm: #NOKXL:From Alberta Tar Sans to Steele City Nebraska by Agathena.
1:00 pm: Shouldn't We Know Whether Tar Sands Causing Cancer With First Nations Before XL Pipeline Decision? by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse.
3:00 pm: #NOKXL Cut off the Tar Sands Switch to an Electric or Plug In Vehicle by Assaf.
11:00 am: Marty Cobenais.
12:00 pm: Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green for All.
1:00 pm: Congressman Ed Markey, Democratic Candidate for 2013 United States Senate MA Special Election.
3:00 pm: FishOutofWater
Please remember to republish these diaries to your Daily Kos Groups. You can also follow all postings by clicking this link for the Climate Change SOS Blogathon Group. Then, click 'Follow' and that will make all postings show up in 'My Stream' of your Daily Kos page.