Press release on the DC Council’s Nov 26 hearing on the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act
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DC Council to Consider Fossil Fuel Divestment Act
Investing in Fossil Fuels is Investing in Our Own Destruction, Says DC Divest
(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, at a Committee of the Whole hearing, the DC Council takes up the issue of divesting from fossil fuels companies. “Investing in fossil fuels is investing in our destruction,” says Alex Doukas, of the grassroots DC Divest group.
Introduced in September, the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act of 2013 (bill #B20-0481) directs the DC Retirement Board and the District’s Chief Financial Officer to divest holdings from the 200 publically traded companies with the greatest reserves of fossil fuels from DC’s retirement funds and the Health Annuity Trust.
“The District, as the nation’s capital, has a special role to play as a model of forward-thinking governance. I introduced this bill because it’s important that DC show leadership on climate change – an issue fundamental to our future. Taking public funds out of fossil fuels companies is an important message and a step in the right direction,” says Phil Mendelson, DC Council Chairman. The Fossil Fuel Divestment Act of 2013 was introduced by Phil Mendelson, Jack Evans, Tommy Wells, Muriel Bowser, David Grosso and co-sponsored by Marion Barry.
Thirty-two community members, financial experts, and climate scientists are to testify in favor of fossil fuel divestment at the hearing or through written submissions. Supporters say the Act will send a clear message to fossil fuel companies that the District will not bankroll climate change, more extreme weather, poor air quality, and a rising sea level.
DC Divest is part of an international grassroots movement to divest university and public funds from companies whose activities have a profound negative impact on the globe. According to 350.org, there are 380 divestment campaigns in the US and new campaigns in New Zealand, Australia and Europe. “We vote for our future with our investment wallet,” says DC Divest campaign member Elise Shulman “Washington, DC can divest from fossil fuel companies right away.”
“In 1984, DC divested its public funds from South African companies during Apartheid. Today, as in 1984, the Council of the District of Columbia again has profound moral obligation to take action. Divesting from fossil fuels is a powerful way to revoke the moral license of those companies that profit from our planet’s destruction and strike at the heart of our values,” says Richard Cizik, President, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.
“The evidence is clear: climate change is a direct result of fossil fuel consumption,” says Brenda Ekwurzel, Senior Climate Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “By divesting, the District sends a clear message that it is committed to using every tool available to protect the people of DC who face increased risks from extreme heat waves and other climate change consequences.”
“Recent independent studies have shown that investors can go fossil fuel free without major negative impacts on portfolio performance,” says Stephanie Leighton, Chief Investment Officer at Trillium Investment Management. “The investment firm Aperio Group determined that over rolling 10-year periods from 1988 to 2012, excluding fossil fuel companies would have an annual standard deviation from its benchmark of just over half a percent, but which was virtually no riskier in terms of volatility. They also report that over a 10-year period, a carbon-free portfolio outperformed its benchmark 73% of the time.”
The Act allows for the transition to take place over a number of years to mitigate any potential financial impact to the funds.