Fernandes Divestment Bill Gaining Momentum

Bill allows independent retirement boards to divest from fossil fuel companies...
Rep. Dylan Fernandes (D-Falmouth)

BOSTON - Rep. Dylan Fernandes of Falmouth testified in favor of divestment legislation in front of the Joint Committee on Public Service last Monday. The bill, co-filed with Representative Livingstone of Cambridge, would allow Massachusetts independent retirement systems to divest fully or in part from fossil fuel companies. Rep. Fernandes cited the dangerous effects of climate change and the financial benefits of divestment as reasons to support the legislation. 

“Global warming is the biggest threat facing us and future generations,” said Representative Fernandes. “We need to align our climate goals with the use of public funds and not contribute to the climate crisis by investing in fossil fuels.” 

The day after the hearing, Boston City Council introduced and passed a resolution supporting the divestment bill Representatives Fernandes and Livingstone filed. 

Fernandes pointed to climate change legislation already passed in Massachusetts. “Last year we passed a two billion dollar bond bill, which in large part funds adaptation to global warming. This year we passed another billion dollar Green Works bill to deal with the effects,” said Fernandes. “So why are we passing legislation, costing taxpayers billions, to deal with the effects of climate change while continuing to mandate our public retirement systems spend our money investing in the fossil fuels destroying our planet?” 

Other state entities in Massachusetts have already taken action on divestment. In 2016, the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees voted to support the UMass foundation’s decision to divest its $770 million endowment fund of fossil fuel holdings. This legislation would give Massachusetts independent retirement boards a similar choice to vote on divestment. “This bill is an option, not a mandate,” said Fernandes.

In his testimony, Fernandes also noted the financial benefits of divestment. He cited a study published in the Global Finance Journal in 2018 in which portfolios that divested from fossil fuels and invested in clean energy perform better than portfolios with investments in fossil fuels.

“An investment is the purchase of goods today for a future gain,” said Fernandes. “If we do not divest from our dependence on fossil fuels, we will leave a bleak and possibly unlivable future for future generations.”

The bill now awaits a report from the Joint Committee on Public Service pending further action.

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