Council says no to investments in fossil fuels

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The ordinance was sent to Mayor Michelle Wu for final approval. Wu’s office did not immediately respond to the comments. But as an advisor, Wu co-sponsored the ordinance earlier this year, suggesting that the measure is likely to be among the first legislation she will sign as mayor. Wu has supported similar reviews of ways to divest from fossil fuels throughout his eight-year tenure on the board.

“As we have said many times, our budget is a statement of our values,” Councilor Lydia Edwards, one of the ordinance’s main sponsors, said at Wednesday’s council hearing, urging his colleagues to support the measure.

“Where we invest our money is a statement of our priorities, and it follows on the rich history of this city by saying that we will not invest in things that are not useful, that will not bring a better future. equitable, and that now, today, do not bring a greener future, an infrastructure that we need, ”she continued.

The ordinance obliges the collector-treasurer of the city to divest municipal funds from “stocks, securities or other bonds of any company which derives more than fifteen percent of its income from combustion, distribution, extraction, the manufacture or sale of fossil fuels, which must include coal, oil and gas or fossil fuel products.

The city’s Treasury Department oversees investments totaling around $ 2 billion, but a third of that portfolio is governed by state laws and restrictions, leaving Boston officials to control just over $ 1 billion. $ 3 billion in investment, city officials said. Already, the city in recent years has moved to invest more in green energy. The proposed municipal ordinance would go further by essentially restricting all investment in the fossil fuel industry.

Edwards said the ordinance would cut about $ 65 million in urban fossil fuel investment, although the legislation would set a deadline of 2025 for full divestment.

The vote came as good news for state advocates who pushed for divestment. “A little bit goes a long way,” said Cabell Eames, political director of 350 Massachusetts, a climate action group. “If Boston does it, who can say Northampton won’t?” And if Northampton does, who can say Haverhill won’t? “

The city has historically prevented investments in other controversial industries, such as the tobacco industry, as a way to send a message of social justice. The council passed a similar ordinance in 1984 divesting public funds from companies doing business in the Republic of South Africa.

City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who co-sponsored the legislation with Edwards and Wu, said the measure also made financial sense. Investing in green energy industries is more profitable than those involved in fossil fuels, he said.

“It’s not only the right thing to do when we talk about divestment, but also, we have a fiduciary responsibility to our taxpayers,” O’Malley said. “It’s not only good for the planet, but it’s good for our bottom line.”

The city’s approval of the law could push the state to take equal action, as part of a larger campaign to divest public funds from fossil fuels. The state – which claims a $ 95 billion investment portfolio – has resisted divestment, despite 17 years of calls from residents to do so.

Earlier this year, State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg announced that the state pension plan will continue to integrate an environmental, social and corporate governance framework into its decision making process. investment, but what that will look like remains uncertain.

Mary Cerulli, co-founder of Climate Finance Action, said Goldberg had used the powers of her office to tackle the climate crisis in other ways, including voting against the reinstatement of former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond, on the board of directors of JPMorgan Chase. She also voted this year against the CEOs, Presidents and Directors of Big Seven oil companies, three global banks and six utility companies, according to Cerulli.

Bill McKibben, a leader in the divestment movement, however, said state officials could do more, calling divestment from fossil fuel resources an “easy and obvious place” for climate action in Massachusetts.

He highlighted the success of divestment campaigns in Maine, New York and Quebec, as well as Harvard University’s recent decision to divest, and said it was “a crazy fact that the state pension fund always invests in fossil fuels ”.

“When you’re lagging behind Harvard University on these things, you know you’re late,” he said.


Milton J. Valencia can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @miltonvalencia. Sabrina Shankman can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @shankman.



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