California Pension Funds Lost More Than $5 Billion From Fossil Fuel Holdings
A new report released yesterday from Trillium Asset Management found that California’s public pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, incurred a massive loss of more than $5 billion in the last year alone from their holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies. The funds, combined, incurred a loss of $840 million from stock investments in the world’s largest coal companies. Together, the two influential and enormous pension funds represent a total of nearly 2.6 million members in the state.
This report comes as S.B. 185, a bill to divest CalPERS and CalSTRS from coal, awaits a vote in the Assembly. The bill has already jumped major hurdles through the State Senate and an Assembly Policy Committee. If passed through the Assembly, the bill will make its way to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown, where he will will either affirm California’s position as a climate leader, or fail to take climate action he has acknowledged as necessary.
"This is a material loss of money, which directly impacts the strength of the pension fund," said Matthew Patsky, CEO of Trillium Asset Management. "Fossil fuel stocks are volatile investments. Investors and fiduciaries should take this moment to reassess their financial involvement in carbon pollution, climate disruption and the financial risk fossil fuels plays in their portfolio."
Just last week, Bloomberg News reported that CalPERS lost $40 million in market value from investments in a single oil company.
S.B. 185, introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, is one of eleven bills included in the California Climate Leadership Package. Other noteworthy bills include S.B. 350 and S.B. 32, which call for significant reductions in fossil fuel use and emissions, as well as an increases in the use of renewables to generate electricity and energy efficiency.
"On behalf of teachers across the state, I have been urging CalSTRS to take our investments out of fossil fuels,” said Jane Vosburg, a CalSTRS member and organizer with Fossil Fuel California. “Financial experts have long warned about the high risk of fossil fuel investments. Teachers' pension funds should not be invested in an industry that threatens human civilization. Morally, divestment is the right thing to do; financially it’s the smart thing to do."
Members of the California State Assembly will return from summer recess August 17, upon which they will vote on S.B. 185, 350, 32 and other key bills.
The campaign for S.B. 185 is part of a growing worldwide push to divest the financial holdings of universities, religious institutions, pension funds and other investors from fossil fuel companies. For more information on S.B. 185, click here.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
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