Tell CalPERS to divest from fossil fuels

By Sara Theiss

Are you a CalPERS member or beneficiary? A California taxpayer? Someone who cares about the future of our planet? If so, please join Fossil Free California in Sacramento on March 18, 2019, when we’ll tell the Board of Directors of the CalPERS pension plan, the largest pension plan in the U.S., to divest from fossil fuels! On that day, the CalPERS board will meet to update its sustainable investing program – and we will be there to hold them accountable, for CalPERS beneficiaries, California taxpayers, and future generations.

Anyone can can speak for up to three minutes during the public comment period. See the list below of some of the many reasons for divestment. While the CalPERS board has a fiduciary duty to act on behalf of its beneficiaries, as public officials they also have a responsibility to act in the best interest of all Californians.

Please join us at 9 AM on Monday March 18, at the CalPERS Auditorium, Lincoln Plaza North, 400 Q Street, Sacramento, CA 95811. The Board needs to hear a broad spectrum of voices, including yours.

To join us on March 18, or for more information, including about car pools, please contact

Why should CalPERS divest?

Fossil Free California is a nonprofit organization that works to end financial support for climate-damaging fossil fuel. Graphic © Fossil Free California 

Sara Theiss decided to focus on climate issues after retiring from the California Office of the State Public Defender in 2017, and now volunteers with Fossil Free California (FFCA) to end financial support for the fossil fuel industry. She is a CalPERS retiree and leads FFCA’s campaign on CalPERS divestment.

Swalwell final 2018 Town Hall

By Ward Kanowsky

Close to 450 attendees braved the wind and rain to join Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15) on December 1 at Dublin High School for his last town hall of 2018.  Swalwell gave an overview of HR 1, the new Congress’ first major piece of legislation in 2019, touching on key issues of voting rights and dark money and also pledging to expand investigations so that the Oval Office is not used by the current occupant as an “opportunity to cash in.” On the issue of immigration, Swalwell said that despite threats of a government shutdown, he would never vote to fund the wall; rather, we need to focus on the “root cause” of the immigration crisis and work with other countries to help them address the poverty and violence within their own borders.

Rep. Swalwell Town Hall, photo by LeAnn Kanowsky
Rep. Swalwell Town Hall, photo by LeAnn Kanowsky

Some of the other issues discussed during Swalwell’s opening comments and during Q&A included:

  • Trump’s tax returns: “We will see them.” The House Ways and Means Committee could request the returns right now without a vote, but Swalwell thinks it will likely still go through the courts. Every President since Nixon has released their tax returns, and “we need to do an MRI” on Trump’s financial interests.
  • Impeachment: “The best thing for democracy is for Trump to be impeached,” but we need an impeachable case. “We don’t want to make a martyr out of him.”
  • Climate change: “The window is closing fast” to get something done. Since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accord (and the U.S. can’t get back into the Paris agreement until we have a new President), the best opportunity to get something done would be through an infrastructure bill that includes provisions for energy alternatives. This is an area where Trump might agree.
  • Guns: In addition to background checks, Swalwell supports banning or buying back all assault weapons. He told a personal story from when he was a prosecutor about a victim of an assault weapon who was shot in the leg, but still died because the bullet was fired at such a high velocity.
  • Yemen: Swalwell said that he supports House Concurrent Resolution 138, which directs the President to remove United States armed forces from the Republic of Yemen.

Photograph (top) © Rep. Swalwell’s office

Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnn Kanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team.


Climate Action: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It’s been a dizzying week: the announcement from the White House of intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement; reactions from elected representatives on every level who understand the need to protect the environment; statewide legislation on cap and trade. Take a deep breath and get in touch with the heroes and/or villains of this important moment.

The Good – Thank You to Paris Agreement supporters!

Please thank our California leaders who have committed to upholding the terms of the Paris Agreement on state and local levels. (More information about the benefits of the Paris Agreement, and responses to some of the White House misinformation.)

These Bay Area mayors are part of the Climate Mayors coalition: Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter.

Governor Jerry Brown immediately took the lead with Governors Inslee (WA) and Cuomo (NY) in announcing an alliance of states that would uphold the Paris Agreement; other governors continue to join.

In Congress, both California Senators and all East Bay Representatives have publicly spoken out against the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Please thank them AND ALSO encourage them to join the Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group exploring policy options to combat the causes and effects of climate change.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email): (415) 393-0707
Sen. Kamala Harris (email): (415) 355-9041
Rep. Mark Desaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000
Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370
Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322

More good – California cap and trade legislation: A cap and trade bill, SB 775, is moving through the CA state senate. Find out more about SB 755. Ask your senator and rep to sign on to the bill.

And even more – Oakland takes a stand: On June 6, the Oakland City Council adopted a resolution, proposed by Councilmember at Large Rebecca Kaplan, urging the United States Congress to enact a revenue-neutral carbon pricing fee similar to that proposed by SB 775. Thank Councilmember Kaplan and voice your approval to your Councilmember.

The Bad – Paris Agreement foes in the pocket of the oil and coal lobbies (quelle surprise!)

Twenty-two Senators who sent a letter urging the president to withdraw from the Paris Agreement have collectively taken in more than $10 million from oil and coal lobbies. You can contact Senator Mitch McConnell – as Senate Majority Leader, he’s supposed to be responsive to all of us. If you have family and friends who are constituents of any of the other Senators on this list, please ask them to contact them (here is the phone number for the Senate switchboard, which can connect to any Senator’s office). Also note: Senators with asterisks are up for re-election in 2018!

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.); Sen. Jim Inhofe (Okla.); Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.)*; Sen. John Cornyn (Texas); Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.); Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.)*; Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.); Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho); Sen. Jim Risch (Idaho); Sen. Thad Cochran (Miss.); Sen. Mike Rounds (S.D.); Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.); Sen. John Boozman (Ark.); Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.); Sen. Luther Strange (Ala.); Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah)*; Sen. Mike Lee (Utah); Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas)*; Sen. David Perdue (Ga.); Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.); Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.); Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.)

The Ugly – These men should be nowhere near climate change or energy policy.

The Current Occupant of the White House; Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency; Rick Perry, Department of Energy

Talking Points and Responses to the White House on the Paris Agreement

The White House intent to withdraw from the Paris Accord relies heavily on a 2015 report by NERA Economic Consulting. It’s important to note that this report was sponsored by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity – in other words, by the coal industry. Seeing red flags yet?

Here are a few facts that give the lie to the White House’s claims that the Paris Agreement is bad for the US:

JOBS AND THE ECONOMY: Paris increases US competitiveness, creates jobs, saves Americans money

  • The NERA study cited by the President wrongly assumes that innovation in cleantech will slow down, instead of speeding up, and that it will kill jobs and be a negative economic loss. This is disproved by the fact that businesses are uniformly supportive of the Paris Agreement. (One debunking by WRI, another by economist Gary Yohe, and similar arguments rebutted by a variety of scientists)
  • The market for clean energy is open and growing: since 2007, the U.S. economy grew by 12 percent while overall energy consumption fell by 3.6 percent. The rapid growth of clean energy and energy efficiency made 2014 the first year ever that the world’s economy grew without carbon emissions also growing, according to the International Energy Agency. The trend continued into 2015.
  • Solar jobs are growing 17 times faster than the overall U.S. economy. Wind turbine service technicians are the fastest-growing occupation in the country, There are 1.2 million clean energy jobs in states that voted for Trump and over 2.6 million across the US.
  • Wind power is now the largest renewable energy source in the U.S., according to the American Wind Energy Association. Installed wind capacity totaled over 82 gigawatts last year, enough to power 24 million average homes and surpassing America’s 80 gigawatts of hydropower.
  • Leaving Paris positions China, not the US, as the leader in the global clean energy market: According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, China was the top solar PV employer, with 1.7 million jobs in 2015, “due to its undisputed lead in both manufacturing and installations.”
  • According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “NERA … ignores recent studies that show real world investments in energy efficiency programs generate net savings for consumers; efficiency shows up in their study as a net cost.” (emphasis in original) In fact, the Clean Power Plan, which was intended to be the U.S. tool to implement the Paris agreement, would save the average American household $1,868 on electricity bills over a 15 year period.

COMMITMENTS FROM OTHER NATIONS: Paris extracted meaningful commitments from all the major polluters

  • Contrary to White House claims, India and China are already working towards reducing emissions. China is announcing a new effort to work with the EU, and India’s solar industry is booming as it raises taxes on coal.
  • Paris also created a system to monitor and verify that China and India do their fair share.

CLIMATE PROTECTION: The deal is a great start that reduces the risk climate change poses to the US.

  • The White House cites NERA for the proposition that US participation in the Paris Agreement won’t do anything to stop global warming. But the NERA study assumes we’ll take the LEAST efficient path to decarbonization. There is no evidence for this.
  • Reducing emissions in the energy and transport sectors could prevent almost 300,000 early deaths caused by air pollution each year in the US by 2030, according to a Duke University study.
  • Reducing emissions reduces the risk of extreme weather events that cost Americans dearly in terms of human life as well as tens of billions of dollars in economic losses.

Beyond the NERA report, the White House asserted that withdrawing from the Paris Agreement would be good for “America First.” That, too, is a badly flawed conclusion.

AMERICAN DIPLOMATIC LEADERSHIP: The Paris Accord was led by the United States. Walking away from an agreement we forged will create incalculable damage to this country’s reputation and credibility.

  • Since WWII, the US has been the most significant global superpower. For better or worse, important global and even regional problems have involved US participation. Initiatives from the sanctions imposed by the West on Iran which led to the Iran nuclear deal to intellectual property protection to stopping human trafficking cannot be complete without US leadership.
  • For the US to lead and push for the Paris agreement and then to walk away from it is a huge blow to the US’s reputation and credibility and its enormous soft power. As George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, argued in his plea “The Business Case for the Paris Accord”: “If America backs away now, decades of diplomatic progress could be jeopardized. Global statecraft relies on trust, reputation and credibility, which can be all too easily squandered. The United States is far better off maintaining a seat at the head of the table rather than standing outside. If America fails to honor a global agreement that it helped forge, the repercussions will undercut our diplomatic priorities across the globe, not to mention the country’s global standing and the market access of our firms.”
  • Superpower leadership is no more permanent than the Antarctic ice shield: Oceans rise, empires fall. Until the US took the mantle, Britannia ruled the waves. China has made it clear it will fill a leadership vacuum as well as the commercial opportunity left by the United States.