Climate Change Has Become an Existential Threat
The extraction and burning of fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) put large amounts of greenhouse gases (CO2, methane and others) into our environment. These greenhouse gases have warmed our planet to such an extent that climate change has become an existential threat to humanity. Because we have so little time to stop the gravest impacts (flooding, wildfires, drought) we must do everything possible to reverse climate change.
Since 2011 when 350.org initiated a worldwide divestment campaign, people have been demanding fossil fuel divestment from their faith groups, universities, wealth funds, local and state governments and even from their countries. Divestment is the demand to stop investing in fossil fuel companies and banks that fund them. This has turned into a powerful movement globally and is now materially contributing to the decline of the fossil fuel energy sector. More than 1,100 portfolios of major institutions totaling more than $11Trillion have already committed to fossil fuel divestment, including the World Council of Churches, University of California and even Ireland.
DivestNJ Coalition Was Started in Early 2018
The DivestNJ Coalition was started in early 2018 calling for an end to fossil fuel investment by the New Jersey State pension plans. These pension plans provide retirement benefits for state, local government and school district retirees and their families. They are funded by member contributions and State, County and local governments from taxpayer dollars.
DivestNJ worked on legislation (A1245 and S2128) with Assemblyman John McKeon and Senator Bob Smith which was introduced in March 2018. This legislation calls upon the State Investment Council (SIC) which oversees the pension plan investments to divest from the top 200 oil, gas and coal companies. Because no action has been taken on these bills we are currently working to make sure that when they are reintroduced in the next legislative session in 2020 there will be movement on them.
Speaking Out at the State Investment Council
Since September 2018 divestment activists have been attending the SIC bimonthly meetings in Trenton and speaking during public comment on fossil fuel divestment where we have made inroads over the last year. As the climate crisis worsens and the financial status of the energy sector declines we are finding more allies on the Council. They have not yet responded to our demand for an asset allocation study of a FOSSIL FREE portfolio which we believe would clarify that they could make as much or more money without fossil fuel investments as they could with them. They have also done initial research on renewable investments although they remain committed to investing in fossil fuels through 2040.
Since the NJ pension valued today at around $79Billion is the worst funded state pension in the United States we feel it is even more important that the SIC make the best investments possible. The fossil fuel energy sector has been in steady decline for the last few decades and has been an increasing drag on the NJ State pension plans. In 2018 energy was the worst performing sector of the Standard & Poor's 500. In the first 2 quarters of 2019, it has been -16% off the benchmark that the SIC pension managers have set, underperforming every other sector in the portfolio by a long shot.
In addition to speaking in public comment we have begun an informational picket before the SIC meetings. On November 20th, the next scheduled SIC meeting, we will picket and then march to Governor Murphy's office and demand he support fossil fuel divestment, as well.
This November DivestNJ will have a booth at the New Jersey Education Association annual Convention where thousands of teachers attend. We are looking forward to talking to many teachers from all over the state about the need to divest and protect their pensions.
Our Coalition is expanding and we look forward to working with new people and new organizations that support the demand for the SIC to divest of fossil fuels companies. The risks of climate change are unacceptable both in terms of economic and human survival. Please get involved TODAY!