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Time for Virginia Dems to Follow California Dem Party’s Lead, Call for Fossil Fuel Divestment ASAP

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A few weeks ago, Terry McAuliffe was actually arguing that he has no leadership role to play on whether “the state of Virginia and its retirement fund and other relevant funds should divest from fossil fuel companies.” McAuliffe’s pathetically weak answer:

No! I think they have to make the decision what is in the best interest of whatever they’re making their investments; they have a fiduciary duty to make those investments. And clearly as governor I am not going to sit here and tell the people who manage these funds what to do — not my role. And I clearly understand my role…Jeff, it is not my job to come in and tell our businesses what to do. I am a fiscally conservative, pro-business Democrat; I am socially very progressive…

As I said at the time, that was wrong on almost any level you consider it, not to mention a pathetic abdication of leadership. Now, the largest (by far) state Democratic Party has shown what its state’s governor has shown — real leadership on the most important issue facing humanity, that being climate change. Check this out.

At the California Democratic Party convention this weekend, state party officials voted to adopt an official resolution endorsing fossil fuel divestment. Citing the growing threat posed by climate change, the resolution urges the state’s public universities and pension funds to divest their financial holdings from the top 200 fossil fuel companies as part of a comprehensive solution to the climate crisis. The resolution marks the first endorsement for fossil fuel divestment from a state political party, and adds major momentum to the legislative push for S.B. 185, a coal divestment bill. The news also builds pressure on statewide institutions like the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the University of California endowment, who have long faced calls for divestment.

The adopted resolution reads, in part: “[t]he California Democratic Party calls upon the University of California and California State University endowments, the University of California Retirement Plan, and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) institutional pension funds, to immediately stop new investments in fossil fuel companies, to take steps, without risking any financial loss to its members, to divest all holdings from the top 200 fossil fuel companies as determined by the Carbon Underground list within five years, and to release periodic updates to the public, detailing progress made toward full divestment.”

Exactly, the California Democratic Party nails it, as did Gov. Jerry Brown in his powerful “State of the State” address back in January. Now, what about the Democratic Party of Virginia? Gov. McAuliffe? Lt. Governor Northam? Attorney General Herring? Other leaders in our state? When are they going to call for divestment by state pension funds, colleges and universities, etc. from planet-killing fossil fuels? The crisis is urgent, action is required immediately, so what on earth (other than fear of the fossil fuel companies, fossil-fuel-allied utilities, etc.) is stopping them?

P.S. No reason for local parties to wait for DPVA; I also call on Dem committees in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Prince William, Stafford, Henrico, Loudoun, Virginia Beach, Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Charlottesville, etc, etc. to pass divestment resolutions.

  • WHEREAS, the climate crisis is a severe threat to current and future generations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report found that global warming is already causing costly disruption of human and natural systems throughout the world including the melting of Arctic ice, the ocean’s rise, increase in ocean’s acidity, flooding and drought; and

    WHEREAS, almost every government in the world has agreed through the 2009 Copenhagen Accord that any warming above a 2°C (3.6°F) rise would be hazardous, and that if humans pour only about 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere this limit will be not possible to maintain; and

    WHEREAS, for the purposes of this resolution, a “fossil fuel company” shall be defined as any of the 200 publicly traded companies with the largest coal, oil, and gas reserves as measured by the gigatons of carbon dioxide that would be emitted if those reserves were extracted and burned, as listed in Fossil Free Indexes’ “The Carbon Underground 200” report, as updated; and

    THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the California Democratic Party calls upon the University of California and California State University endowments, the University of California Retirement Plan, and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CALPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CALSTRS) institutional pension funds, to immediately stop new investments in fossil fuel companies, to take steps, without risking any financial loss to its members, to divest all holdings from the top 200 fossil fuel companies as determined by the Carbon Underground list within five years, and to release periodic updates to the public, detailing progress made toward full divestment; and

    BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the California Democratic Party send a copy of this resolution to the Governor of the State of California, the Board of Regents of the University of California, the Chancellor of the California State University system, members of the state Senate and state Assembly, asking support for institutional divestment from fossil fuels without risk of financial loss to its members and for this resolution.

    Sponsored by Region 2, Region 5, and Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Los Angeles, Marin, Placer, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, Ventura, and Yolo Democratic Central Committees.

    ***

    Adopted by the California Democratic Party

    At its May 2015 State Convention

    Anaheim Convention Center

    May 17, 2015