Updates

Please Help Young Climate Activists “Rally for the Planet”

youth lobbyOver the past few months, students and teachers from over a dozen Vermont high schools and colleges have given up their Sunday afternoons to plan a major day of action to promote greater political action on climate change.

They are calling this event the Youth Rally for the Planet, and hundreds of students have already signed up to attend! They could really use your help to make this day a reality! These students will march together in solidarity, learn more about climate change through educational booths on the Statehouse lawn, and stand together to listen to speakers and performers demand greater political action on climate change.

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Break Free Albany: Stop the Bomb Trains

Break Free Albany is a mass action for climate justice on May 14th where thousands of people will stand up against the fossil fuel industry in North America. Break Free Albany represents a coalition of communities and organizations gathering for a mass civil disobedience act against oil trains, gas pipelines, and other fossil fuel projects. It is time for the fossil fuel era to come to an end! Many people will participant in the direct action or come to rally and stand in solidarity.

This action is part of the 350.org initiated Break Free From Fossil Fuels global week of action – May 7 through 14. Albany 2016 is one of the actions in the United States, complementing other actions across the country and on five other continents. Sign up to take a stand against the fossil fuel industry here!

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No New Leases/Surround the Superdome

New Orleans, LA | March 23, 2016 | K.C. Whiteley reporting12891151_10205628548502283_1427425124478694306_o

As part of the national Keep it in the Ground campaign, the “No New Leases” action on March 23rd at the New Orleans Superdome represented an historic moment in the environmental movement here on the Gulf coast.

Hundreds of protesters from Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Georgia arrived in New Orleans on the morning of March 23rd to defend the waters and eco-life of the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf coast communities joined national and global partners to say no to the continued exploitation of the Gulf as a “sacrifice zone” for fossil fuel development.

At stake was 43 million new acres of federally controlled ocean for fossil fuel development, an area the size of the entire state of Louisiana and half of Mississippi, and the 8th largest carbon source remaining on the planet.

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Seizing our property, for what good?

The following blog post is by Terence Cuneo, UVM professor, father, and resident of Williston, VT, who faces eminent domain. Terence and his family aren’t giving in. Please consider helping them in their legal battle with a donation.

 

It’s a big deal when the state decides to seize a family’s land. Yet, given its agreement with Vermont Gas (VGS), this is exactly what the state of Vermont is now doing to our family. I would be hard pressed to find the words to express our anger about this. The decision makes no sense.

cuneo meme

The right to own and retain property is among the most fundamental rights that we enjoy as US citizens. I think everyone agrees to that. I think everyone also realizes that the right is not absolute. There are circumstances in which the state must appropriate land that belongs to others. But the circumstances are rare. And the reasons for doing so had better be extremely powerful. The bar they must clear is very high.

It is plainly obvious to me that the primary reason the state has offered for seizing our property is not powerful. It does not clear the bar. Here is the reason the state offers: providing natural gas to roughly 2600 customers over fifteen years is a public good. This public good, moreover, is of such importance that it entitles the state to seize the land of property-owners. Nobody denies that installing this pipeline has some benefits. But I strenuously deny that the good is of such importance that it justifies the state seizing our property.

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Teetering on Destruction

As part of an interdisciplinary, independent study project in both the media arts and environmental studies, Ross Henry, a junior at St. Michael’s College, is telling the story of climate change’s devastating effects on both the landscape and the culture of Alaska. Throughout the month of March, Ross is on the front lines of climate change: remote villages, century old glaciers, iconic dog mushing races, and entire ecosystems. Ross hopes his documentary, will both educate about a region that is misunderstood, but also inspire people to realize the beautiful regions that are teetering on destruction.

Iditarod 2016 Willow

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Climate Organizer Leadership Training

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What is the 350VT Building Ground Climate Justice Leader Training?

We will spend a full weekend learning, deepening, and building the skills necessary to undertake powerful climate justice work within our communities. The Building Ground training specifically focuses on sharing fundamental frameworks about climate justice and building the relationships that empower effective leaders.

At Building Ground, you can expect sessions where you will:24958884804_b045176989

  • Explore the complex definitions of climate justice and the myriad approaches that individuals and groups undertake to achieve this goal,
  • Deepen your own understanding of racial justice and its fundamental connection to the climate crisis,
  • Learn in detail about 350’s specific approach to changemaking and organizing,
  • Begin to articulate your own leadership and changemaking approaches and identify personal goals and next steps for your return home,
  • Learn specific strategies to support your work (frameworks, facilitation techniques, and core organizing skills),
  • Connect with other emerging leaders from around the state and region and build a community of courage and creativity.

Why Now?

These times demand that we build powerful and loving social movements that are strong enough to confront and overcome the systems which have created the climate crisis. With the impending urgency of this climate crisis and the lack of leadership in our federal government, and at a time when various movements for justice around the world are uniting to work together, this is the moment for each of us to step more fully into our own leadership and power.

This requires taking the time to build our own ground as citizens, leaders, and organizers. This ground – our collective knowledge, skills, joy, grief, and courage – is where the strength in the climate movement lies. It is a deeply intersectional ground where our individual lived experiences connect with our visions for the future and with the visions and experiences of other people and justice movements around the world. Generating this rich soil for our movement is necessary if we are going to confront this crisis with the boldness, creativity, resilience, and love that we need.

Why You?

First, the basics: If you’re wondering if you’re “qualified enough” to be a part of something this… you are. If you’re wondering if you “know enough” to be a part of something this… you do. If you’re wondering if you’re “good enough” to be a part of something like this… take a deep breath and know that we need you. Here is a list of some reasons that you might consider attending…

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  • You are excited to learn and deepen your knowledge of climate justice and the climate movement
  • You want to be a part of a community of inspiring people who are ready to stand up and confront the reality of the climate crisis
  • You have bold ideas and questions and you want to learn how to put them into action
  • You want to grow your own skills and abilities and be part of a community of practice that is learning together
  • You know this moment in time requires tremendous leadership and you want to find your own way to contribute
  • You feel moved by this invitation in some way that you can’t quite describe, and just feel like you want to be there!

The Details

Building Ground will begin at 4pm on April 7th at the beautiful Common Ground Center in Starksboro, Vermont and will conclude at 4pm on Sunday April 9th. It is important to understand that attendance for the entire weekend is 28003855285_f9121f3790_brequired to participate. (If you have questions about this, or want to attend but feel like you will not be able to be present for the entire time, please contact Jen Lazar at jen@350vt.org.)

Cost of the program ranges from $50-$175 depending on what you feel you are able to contribute. This amount covers the cost of food, lodging, and facilitation for the weekend. On the registration form there is more detail about how to determine the amount of contribution you are able to make. **Please note if this presents a financial hardship for you there is sponsorship available and no one will be turned away based on financial need. We want you there and we will work with you to make that possible!

Space is limited for this program, so please sign up early! First round of registration closes on February 24th. If you have any questions or ideas, please contact Jen Lazar at jen@350vt.org.

If not now, then…

If you can’t make these dates, or need something that is closer to where you live, don’t worry! We will be hosting multiple of these programs this year. Check back here for updated plans and other upcoming trainings and workshops.


Beth Sawin: three forces of change experienced in Paris and gratitude for them

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Beth Sawin at UMass Lowell Climate Change Solutions for the Future We Need. Photo Credit: Climate Interactive

I’m home and I have read (well skimmed) the Paris Agreement and read lots of commentary from many smart people who have written about what the deal itself means, so I won’t add to that. (There’s a good easy to understand summary at Grist, by the way).

Instead my last ‘update from Paris’ is about .

1. Feedback. Healthy systems need timely and accurate feedback. Here our tiny Climate Interactive team has had a role since Copenhagen, a role I think we played well in Paris. The world didn’t close the emissions gap yesterday, but the gap is so clear now and so well understood that no one is leaving Paris thinking the work is over.

2. Goals. Systems steer toward goals. That’s why the inclusion of the 1.5°C goal is so important. The goal doesn’t itself change the world, our hard work and joyful collaboration does that. But the goal keeps us focused, it motivates, and 1.5 is a significant enough goal that it rules out the distractions of false and partial solutions.

3. Beliefs. About ourselves, each other, and our Earth. At one event I went to Mary Robinson spoke, and then Casey Camp Horinek, an indigenous women from Oklahoma. And Casey said: “Never did I think I’d hear the former prime minister of Ireland use the words Mother Earth.” There’s some convergence happening between worlds that used to not intersect. I felt it a year ago at the People’s Climate March, and felt it more in Paris. Jobs, health, the rights of nature, the rights of future generations, the fact that we survive together or not at all. Suddenly all of that is so obvious it’s as though we always knew it. But we didn’t. We really didn’t. (And I know it’s not universal, not nearly enough, but in Paris what connects us felt, to me, stronger than what divides us).

And so my deepest gratitude to those who, at Paris and beyond, weave the connections. The diplomats who held 200 countries together, the young people who see themselves as citizens of a planet, not nations.The indigenous people, the workers, the healers, the farmers, the city planners who are all showing up and saying, we hold a part of the solution, listen to how it looks from where we sit.

It’s messy, slow, and incomplete. It’s organic, surprising, and invigorating. Frustrating, unfair, insufficient. But most of all, not done yet, but not blocked either. With a place and an important job for each of us.

 

Beth is Co-Director of Climate Interactive, a not-for-profit organization based in Washington DC aimed to help people see what works to address climate change and related issues like energy, water, food, and disaster risk reduction. A biologist with a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Beth trained in system dynamics and sustainability with Donella Meadows and worked at Sustainability Institute, the research institute founded by Meadows, for 13 years. Below is her reaction to the news from Paris. 


Student Speak Out about the World They Will Inherit

Students from the Burlington Sustainability Academy Sushila, Sarah, and Barsha reading a poem they wrote together at Wednesday’s Youth Speak Out

Last Wednesday, 350Vermont facilitated a youth speak out at ArtsRiot in Burlington. It was an inspiring event, with youth varying in ages sharing their thoughts on the world and its struggles they will eventually inherent. Below is a sample of the power words heard that night, by a student named Ethan Ireland, entitled Greed. 

Greed is a very potent force in today’s society. It keeps many hard-working people poor, and many not-so-hard-working people rich. Greed is so potent, in fact, that it literally kills people and destroys the environment. That’s correct. Through exploitation and stubbornness, greed is killing this planet and everything on it.

Firstly, oil companies are doing their best to keep people dependent on oil and other fossil fuels for energy. This pumps a lot of greenhouse gases and toxins into the atmosphere. Acid rain is one byproduct of burning fossil fuels. Normal rain is slightly acidic from compounds within the air. But elevated levels of certain compounds can make the rain unusually acidic – much to the detriment of wherever it comes down. Another byproduct of burning fossil fuels is the greenhouse effect. Normally, the atmosphere has just a little carbon dioxide, keeping us nice and warm. However, elevated levels of greenhouse gases kick the greenhouse effect into overdrive, toppling ecosystems and food chains. This is very true of the ocean, where many species are very sensitive to changes in temperature. Already species are dying due to climate change, and not just in the ocean. Humans may or may not follow.

Greed is also killing people. Many people, especially in third-world countries, have died prematurely due to pollution. People are also severely underpaid in some places so that the people at the top of a certain company can make more money. Minimum wage is barely enough to sustain most people, thus the term “starvation wage.” Most minimum wage workers can’t support a family, and they need help from government programs, such as Medicaid, Welfare, WIC, and others. Then, the people at the top, e.g. the owner(s)/CEO(s) of Walmart, complain that their tax dollars are going to people who can’t support themselves. It is a cycle caused by the greed of people who make way more money than needed. Many companies also hire people only part time so that they don’t need to pay for their employees’ healthcare. This adds fuel to the flames of the cycle of blame.

Greed is most certainly a force to be reckoned with. It destroys so that the rich may have more. But does one need billions upon billions of dollars? The people at the top may tell you ‘yes,’ but the correct answer is no. We must put an end to this, and ensure that all may have a fair shot at getting what they need.


Climate Technofix: Weaving Carbon into Gold and Other Myths of “negative emissions”

By Rachel Smolker, PhDSandakan_Sabah_Biomass-Power-Plant-300x200[1]

When the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) published their most recent fifth assessment report, something surprising and deeply disturbing was lurking in the small print in chapter three on “mitigation”.

The IPCC revealed that to achieve even a recognizably normal future climate the models they reviewed relied on not only drastically reducing emissions in the future, but also on widespread use of some advanced technology that can remove some of the CO2 that is already in the atmosphere.

In fact, most (101 of 116 models they reviewed to achieve 430-480 PPM stabilization) incorporated some sort of “negative emissions” technological fix (Fuss et al., 2014).

Sandakan Sabah Biomass Power Plant
SANDAKAN SABAH BIOMASS POWER PLANT
The terminology of “negative emissions” has now entered the jargon in climate negotiations currently underway in Paris. Yet such a technology is currently nonexistent. The only approach to sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere mentioned by the IPCC as “near term available” is bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, commonly referred to as “BECCS” (Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Sequestration).

BECCS involves producing biomass in massive amounts and either refining it into liquid biofuels (ethanol etc.) or burning it for electricity and heat, while also capturing the resulting CO2 emissions and burying them underground.

IPCC acknowledges that there are risks and uncertainties associated with large scale BECCS. But, while IPCC has remained scientifically rigorous in their assessments of the state of our climate (chapter one of the report), when it comes to assessing “mitigation” options (chapter three), scientific rigor appears to have fallen by the wayside in favor of economic wishful thinking. The fact is that no matter how costly or difficult it may be economically and no matter how difficult to make the models “work” to lay out a path to climate stabilization, embracing fantasy technofixes is a losing strategy. We already know that for both technical and economic reasons, BECCS can never achieve “negative emissions”. In fact, in a new report on BECCS, by Biofuelwatch refers to reliance on BECCS to clean up our climate mess as being roughly as dependable as counting on a visit from carbon sucking extraterrestrials from another planet.

The reality of BECCS
There are currently only a handful of operating commercial BECCS facility in existence, based at ethanol refineries, the most notable being the Archer Daniels Midland project in Decatur Illinois. These capture CO2 from fermentation, which is cheaper and easier than capturing CO2 from other processes because fermentation results in a relatively pure CO2 stream. The Decatur project is a proof of concept project for underground storage of CO2. However, its developers never claimed to provide “negative emissions” nor even to be “carbon neutral”. A few others sell the captured fermentation CO2 for industrial applications including soft drinks and enhanced oil recovery (see below).

Meanwhile, burning wood for industrial and commercial scale electricity and heat is the bioenergy process that is scaling up most rapidly, with co-firing of wood pellets in coal power plants. Industry and governments continue to claim that burning wood for electricity is renewable and “carbon neutral”. Hence they subsidize it alongside wind and solar, even though the CO2 emissions are generally much higher even than for coal per unit of energy generated. The notion that those emissions will be offset by regrowth of the trees and crops that are used has been refuted over and over again, yet still is not reflected in policies. Yet, if the process is not “carbon neutral” in the first place, it can never be rendered “negative” by carbon capture.

We also know full well by now that the demand for “biomass” and the associated land, water, fertilizers use etc. would be hugely destructive on a variety of fronts beyond greenhouse gas emissions – affecting food production, water, human rights and biodiversity. This is clear already at the current scale of bioenergy production.

BECCS is the bioenergy twin of “clean coal”, the carbon capture (CCS) technology that has been touted for years by the coal industry. So how has that worked out?

Carbon capture from fossil fuel processes, as from bioenergy, is expensive and energy intensive. Most attempts – almost all involving coal and natural gas, have encountered a multitude of technical problems and massive cost overruns. They have failed to operate efficiently if at all.

FutureGen, a demonstration “clean coal” plant, was intended to be a US showcase example of CCS technology. Somewhere around 200 million dollars of pubic funding were spent prior to cancellation in 2013. It was canceled in part because private investors wouldn’t chip in. They didn’t consider it viable, presumably because the technical and economic challenges were simply too great.

Another CCS “clean coal” project is in progress in Kemper, Mississippi. The facility will use lignite coal strip mined from an adjacent area of around 48 square miles. Costs were initially estimated at 1.8 billion but have so far ballooned to an astounding 6.17 billion. Even then, the facility is required only to “try” to capture CO2. If they fail, they won’t be held responsible. If they succeed, they have contracted to sell the CO2 for enhanced oil recovery. The project is nevertheless still presented as “good for the climate”.

Last year SaskPower’s billion dollar Boundary Dam project, capturing CO2 from a coal plant came online amid massive hype and proclamations of success. However, recent release of internal documents

“have not only shed light on the technical and financial problems with the plant but the political deception that has gone with it… A little over a year later, the hype about the purported environmental benefits and affordability of the Boundary Dam CCS plant have gone up in a puff of green smoke.”

CCS has been held up as the promise behind “clean coal” for decades. Yet a few weeks ago, after 22 years of lobbying for so-called “clean coal” and failing to produce a single speck of it, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity announced that they will scale back their lobbying efforts.

In “Carbon capture: Miracle machine or white elephant“, the Financial Times noted “Few technologies have had so much money thrown at them for so many years by so many governments and companies, with such feeble results.”

Even above and beyond the problems already mentioned, necessary infrastructure, such as pipelines, to handle captured CO2 and transport it to storage sites are not always conveniently available. Underground storage of CO2 is also questionable. Leaks are pretty much inevitable. A slow leak would release the CO2 back into the atmosphere, while catastrophic leaks from, say, an earthquake, could be lethal to surrounding populations as CO2 is deadly when concentrated.

Where carbon capture has been implemented (primarily in natural gas refinery operations), the costs are offset in part by selling the CO2 for “enhanced oil recovery”, that is: pumping compressed CO2 into depleted oil wells which forces more oil to the surface. But this is neither considered “sequestration” nor is it climate friendly. Quite the reverse.

Still, governments continue to dole out the cash for CCS projects. Doing so is viewed, politically, as “taking action” to reduce emissions. Energy companies on the other hand, have not invested significantly into BECCS or CCS. Governments, that is, we the taxpayers, are instead footing the bill for this endless nonsense.

None of this bodes well for a miraculous, rapid and effective scaling up of BECCS as climate savior. Just recently, DRAX, one of UK’s largest power companies, announced that they were abandoning their “White Rose” BECCS project. That project, sometimes billed as “carbon negative”, was to involve construction of a sizeable new coal plant (the first new plant in UK since 1972). DRAX was slated to receive millions in government subsidies for mixing wood pellets with coal and, in theory at least, capturing and burying some proportion of the CO2 emissions.

Now, as the Paris climate negotiations are just beginning, the UK announced they will altogether drop their promised “pioneering” funding competition for CCS.

Now what?

The idea that we can somehow remove CO2 from the atmosphere is highly appealing. But so far it is simply not possible, and BECCS, even if it existed and was affordable, could not achieve that. Nevertheless, polluting industries, with their slick PR machinery and near infinite budgets, stand prepared to hype whatever will allow them to maintain business as usual: whether it is clean coal, carbon neutral bioenergy, or negative emissions. These are the lies and false promises upon which we are expected to hang our hopes. In reality, they are pointless babble, smoke and mirrors designed to distract a public that is finally coming to recognize the causes and magnitude of the climate crisis but which still remains naively vulnerable to false hopes for a magical technofix.

As the Paris climate negotiations are underway, we bear witness the latest fad: “CO2 recycling”. Instead of putting serious attention to addressing the roots of the problem, we are encouraged to embrace an entrepreneurial and stylishly clever mindset that CO2 is no longer a “problem” but should instead be viewed as a valuable commodity! Why not make stuff from CO2 and sell it? We can profit from our own pollution!

Recently, “XPrize” announced a collaboration with the American energy company, NRG and the oil sands innovation alliance (Cosia) to provide a 20 million dollar bounty for development of a technology capable of making something of value from CO2 removed from the atmosphere.

But, recall the famous 3R’s of waste management? Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. We learned that reuse and recycle only slightly postpone the approach into landfills: a blink of the eye in the lifetime of a plastic. As it turns out, reduce is really the key, it alone addresses the root of the problem. The same is likely to be true for CO2. The only seeming reason to make CO2 products dependent on the perpetuation of an unsustainable and polluting industry (to generate the CO2) is to keep the polluting industry alive.

This idea of CO2 recycling brings to mind the famous fairy tale of Rumplestiltskin, In that story, the princess is commanded to spin straw into gold. A magical imp offers to assist her with this impossible task, but only if she promises to hand over her firstborn child to him. When her child is born, the imp offers that if she can only guess his name, she can keep her child. Happily, she succeeds.

Now we have the fossil fuel industry, XPrize backers representing some of the most atrociously polluting industries, and even some well intentioned people who genuinely, if naively, wish for a technofix to “solve the climate problem” demanding that we spin gold out of CO2 emissions if we want our children to have a decent future.

But we don’t actually have to play mind games with magical imps. We know of tried and true solutions to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Those include a global transition away from industrial agriculture and towards agroecology, good soil practices and the restoration of native ecosystems, including the halting of deforestation. Overall good stewardship of the land and nature would take us much farther towards healing the atmosphere, something that many, including organizations such as La Via Campesina (the peasant farmers), Global Forest Coalition, Indigenous Environmental Network and indigenous peoples around the world have long fought for.

Those real solutions will not generate “renewable energy” or marketable products and therefore are not technically “negative emissions”. They do not rely on shiny new technofixes or pretend to “recycle” pollution. Importantly, they are not so amenable to monetization, corruption, or corporate monopolization. Hence they are rarely given more than lip service, and when they are, it is in the context of bringing them into the market, and providing offsets for polluters as in the case with forests and “reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation” (REDD) and “Climate Smart Agriculture“.

What is needed more than ever is to see through the smoke and mirrors, stop providing massive funding for lifelines to the polluting industries and embrace the obvious and common sense solutions that are tried and true, and remain our best hope.

References
Fuss et al. (2014) Betting on negative emissions. Nature Climate Change 4: 850–853.

Rachel Smolker is Co-Director of Biofuelwatch

For more in-depth, see Biofuelwatch’s new report:
Last-ditch option or wishful thinking? Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage.

 

This piece was originally published in Independent Science News


Fossil Fuel Investments Cost the Vermont Pension Fund Millions

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New analysis of the Vermont pension funds and other large funds shows high costs of not divesting from fossil fuels

Investments in fossil fuel companies have severely hurt the financial performance of pensions for Vermont’s teachers, state and municipal employees, according to a new investment tool created to assess carbon risk. Today, 350Vermont, Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Clean Yield Asset Management announced the results of a new tool applied to the $4.02 billion combined pension fund managed by the Vermont Pension Investment Committee (VPIC) for over 40,000 retirees and active workers. The tool revealed that VPIC’s investments in the top 200 oil, gas, and coal companies cost Vermont pension holders more than $77 million1 in reduced returns over the past three years.

“We have urged VPIC to divest from the fossil fuel industry on moral and financial grounds for the last three years,” said Maeve McBride from 350Vermont. “Now we have proof that divestment would have financially benefited pension holders.

The new analytical tool, Decarbonizer, was developed by Corporate Knights, together with 350.org and South Pole Group. Decarbonizer is an interactive tool that shows how divesting from carbon-heavy companies in a portfolio could affect its financial performance. The Vermont pension fund was analyzed along with 13 other prominent funds, including the Gates Foundation and the Canada Pension Plan, totaling $1 trillion in assets. The analysis estimated the potential financial impact had the funds shifted their investments in October 2012 from the most carbon heavy coal and oil companies2, as well as coal-intensive utilities3 to companies that derive at least 20% of their revenues from environmental markets or new energy4. The 14 funds experienced a scale of losses over the past three years exceeding $22 billion.

“This study points out the flawed arguments that VPIC has made for continuing to invest in fossil fuel companies, namely the unfounded assertion that divesting would reduce returns of the funds and hurt beneficiaries. Over the past three years just the opposite has been true, to the tune of more than $77 million,” stated Eric Becker of Clean Yield Asset Management. “Further, the tool shows that had VPIC divested from the top 200 oil, gas, and coal companies, the risk profile of the portfolio would have been virtually unchanged.”

In July, VPIC heard expert testimony on the improved performance of fossil fuel free investing, yet they voted unanimously to reject fossil fuel divestment, in whole or in part, because it was inconsistent with VPIC’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) policy. The Vermont General Assembly is considering both binding legislation that would require VPIC to divest out of the top 200 carbon polluters over five years, as well as a Joint Resolution urging VPIC to do so.

“We now know that maintaining investments in climate change’s worst offenders isn’t just bad environmental policy, it’s bad financial policy,” said Nate Hausman, the Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club’s Energy Committee Chair. “Divesting our state’s pension fund from fossil fuels will pay dividends to Vermont’s pension holders and to future generations of Vermonters alike. As a state, it’s high time we put our money where our mouth is on climate action.”

“The impact of climate change will be a major investment theme in the next decade and investors who are at the forefront of addressing risks, such as stranded assets in their portfolio construction and security selection process, should be the beneficiaries of stronger long-term risk adjusted performance,” said Christopher Ito, Chief Executive Officer of Fossil Free Indexes.

While this analysis focused on the past three years, dating to the launch of the fossil fuel divestment movement, other analyses over a ten year period byMSCI andFossil Free Indexes also found fossil free portfolios outperformed.

“As a beneficiary of the Vermont pension, I want my pension invested in a sustainable future, not in reckless and corrupt companies that are wrecking the planet,” said K.C. Whiteley, a retired state employee. “Most beneficiaries have no idea that we’ve each lost roughly $1800 of our retirement savings in the last three years because of these risky fossil fuel investments.”

The period of analysis coincides with a tough market for oil and commodity prices, and it is possible that over the next few years, some oil stocks and even coal utilities could partially recover. However, when considering the long-term, many investors recognize the increasingly tenuous business case for remaining heavily invested in carbon intensive industries, as outlined by the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney. In failing to divest, institutions risk under-exposure to $3 trillion of public equities positioned to benefit from a more resource efficient and expanding low carbon economy.