Does fossil fuel divestment work? How do the investments perform? Legally, can we even do it?
These are the big questions that the state Senate will be discussing today in a hearing on fossil fuel divestment in Albany. Colleges, universities, municipalities, not for profits and individuals have been asking these questions more and more as we face the effects of climate change. The moral and ethical questions of our institutions profiting off of climate change have collided with very real questions about the legal obligation of trustees to maximize return in an investment portfolio.
The great news is you can have your fossil fuel free cake and eat it too. Research report after research report shows that historically fossil fuel companies and underperformed other sectors and fossil fuel free portfolios have outperformed. The case can then be made that the legal obligation to maximize return is met with a fossil fuel free portfolio.
The last question of staying invested in a fossil fuel company to leverage your stake in that company to effect change is a simple one. No amount of corporate engagement, proxy voting or resolutions can change the fundamental business practice of a company. The only option at that point is to divest.
I am going to Albany today to watch this hearing, but I go with a lot of support. After several conversations, Mayor Ben Walsh and several representatives of the Common Council, including Helen Hudson, Joe Driscoll, Tim Rudd, Michael Greene, Chad Ryan, Steven Thompson, Bryn Lovejoy, Latoya Allen, and Khalid Bey, have all signed and sent letters of support and testimony to the Senate. Senator Rachel May, a cosponsor of this bill, will be in attendance at the hearing today. I’ll send out another post on this hearing later today to let you know how it goes! We’ll also have an exciting announcement to share with you all, so stay tuned for that as well.