CalSTRS beneficiaries, students, representatives of non-profit organizations and one trustee are urging the $241.3 billion West Sacramento-based pension plan to divest from fossil-fuel investments.
At CalSTRS' recent investment committee meeting, a large group that included about 40 school children armed with signs, banners and stuffed animals, urged the committee to divest from fossil fuels and to add divestment as a tool in the California State Teachers' Retirement System's governance policy. Speakers, including many of the students whose comments were not broadcast by CalSTRS to protect their privacy, urged CalSTRS to divest, according to videos posted on the website of Fossil Free California.
Jane Vosburg, a CalSTRS beneficiary and a member of the steering committee of non-profit organization Fossil Free California, also urged pension fund officials to include in its policy that it is willing to divest from fossil fuels and to use that divestment threat to persuade fossil-fuel companies to reduce C02 emissions.
"We feel that active engagement with fossil-fuel companies should not end with discussion and talk," Ms. Vosburg said. "Divestment by CalSTRS and other large investors may be the persuasion they need to take steps to combat climate change, which threatens our fund and our very existence."
California Treasurer Fiona Ma, a CalSTRS and CalPERS board member, is also calling on CalSTRS to divest from its investment in fossil fuels, said Mark DeSio, a spokesman for the treasurer. On Sept. 10, Ms. Ma circulated a news release from Fossil Free California highlighting Ms. Ma's support for fossil-fuel divestment.
"Where we invest our money reflects our values, and we should be valuing a clean energy future for California. These brave and passionate students are reminding us of that," Ms. Ma said in the release.
Mr. DeSio said in an email that Ms. Ma is starting with urging CalSTRS to divest from fossil fuels, and after that may ask the $378.4 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System, Sacramento, to also divest from fossil fuels.
After the public comment period was over, Harry M. Keiley, investment committee chairman said that committee members talked about the issue but they disagree on the speed of change. Members of the public want CalSTRS to divest from fossil fuels today or yesterday, he said. While CalSTRS may not be divesting from fossil fuels right now, pension fund officials do care about the issue, he said.
"CalSTRS understands that climate change poses material risks to humanity, the world economy and our investment portfolio," the pension fund said in a written statement. "CalSTRS, as part of a global coalition of investors, is currently engaging with the major fossil-fuel companies to advance a transition to a low-carbon economy."
Pension funds officials also support public policies such as cap-and-trade, engaging with companies and investing in sustainable business while fulfilling its fiduciary duty to provide benefits to California's educators, it stated.