SF board decides not to hand over pension money from fossil fuel companies

San Francisco’s public pension fund will not cede more than $ 530 million from portfolio investments in fossil fuel companies.

The board of directors of the seven-member San Francisco Employee Retirement System, which manages a $ 13 billion investment fund that pays for the pensions of city employees, dismissed calls for divestment on Wednesday. The board of directors was on the verge of making history by becoming the first public pension fund to divest its holdings in fossil fuels.

That’s what Martha Hawthorne, a nurse in the Department of Public Health, wanted.

“We don’t have to choose between having a pension or a planet,” Hawthorne said. “We can have both. The best investments are those that will pay off today and secure our future tomorrow.

The planned vote on the divestiture of companies such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron was prompted by a growing national campaign for college endowments and public pension funds to withdraw such investments, in order to combat climate change and d ” accelerate the production of renewable energy. The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution presented by Supervisor John Avalos urging the surrender.

Supervisor London Breed called on the pension council to “demonstrate that San Francisco refuses to take advantage of the most blatant contributors to climate change.” And she said if other investment funds follow suit, it could force companies to move towards cleaner energy.

No public pension fund has withdrawn from investments in fossil fuels. A handful of smaller universities, including San Francisco State University, have pulled endowment investments from oil companies.

None of the members of the San Francisco retirement board have offered to step down. But some wanted to start engaging with businesses to try to effect business changes.

“The smart thing to do is commit [companies]Board member Victor Makras said, adding that big companies are slow to change until there is public pressure.

Board member Brian Stansbury said it was necessary to “slow down”.

“If you look at some of the biggest assets in our portfolio, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, you see they’re not just a fossil fuel company. They are involved in solar, they are involved in natural gas. You can’t just turn off the fossil fuel tap and turn on something else, ”Stansbury said, adding that“ I don’t see our wallet without energy ”.

The pension council voted to gather more information, including an analysis of current proxy voting policies in relation to climate change.