Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler, speaking on Think Out Loud on June 27th, fielded a question from 350 PDX’s own Victoria Leary on the potential for divesting the state from fossil fuels. He discussed the intracies of working with Oregon’s $80 billion worth of investments, many of which are in mutual funds and indexes. But the market is moving towards renewable energy, and Wheeler, who as Multnomah County Chair helped put together the 2009 Climate Action Plan, supports moving into these investments.
Today, president Obama outlined his long-awaited strategy to deal with climate change, an array of ambitious goals including cutting carbon emissions, increasing usage of renewable power sources, and advancing efficiency in buildings and industry. He also called for American citizens to get more engaged in the fight against climate change, “Invest, divest, make yourself heard.”
350 PDX, the Portland, Oregon chapter of 350.org, an international grassroots campaign dedicated to solving the climate crisis, reacted to the President’s call for action. “We are very excited about the president’s plan. Already we have been working to highlight solutions locally that are responsible, both for our environment and our economy. With President Obama’s leadership, our nation has a new set of real, attainable goals to move forward towards a strong, clean energy economy,” responded 350 PDX organizer Kevin Fitzgerald. “As Portlanders who are committed to leaving a safe planet for future generations, we call upon our state to listen to our president and take bold action and immediately commit to shifting themselves away from stocks, bonds or investment funds that are tied to fossil fuels.”
Divestment from fossil fuels has long been seen as an ethical imperative, to build social pressure against fossil fuel companies’ continued extraction of carbon from the earth. Evidence is now growing that divestment is a smart choice in maintaining strong portfolios as well. Prior to the president’s speech, which called for the Environmental Protection Agency to set forth carbon emission regulations on existing power plants, stock prices for coal mining companies fell sharply.
In addition to promoting divestment from fossil fuels, 350 PDX is working to oppose planned coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest. In his speech today, President Obama says, “I’m calling for an end to public financing of new coal plants overseas.” In response, retired teacher and 350 PDX activist Bonnie McKinlay questions whether it makes sense for the Pacific Northwest to allow the transport of coal through the region. “Such transport is fraught with numerous health and environmental impacts and clearly doesn’t mesh with President Obama’s carbon reduction goals as defined in his speech today.”
According to Bill McKibben, one of the world’s leading Climate activists and founder of 350.org, the math is simple: we can emit roughly 500 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and remain below 2°Celsius of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Burning the fossil fuel that industries now have in their reserves would result in emitting over 2,700 gigatons of carbon dioxide – five times that amount.
350.org is named after what scientists say is the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, 350 parts per million. Our atmospheric concentration of CO2 recently passed the milestone of 400 parts per million and continues to rise at an alarming rate.
Oregon’s climate is already changing due to increased CO2 and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. The average annual temperature rose by 1.5°F over the last century and changes in snowpack, streamflows, and forest cover are already occurring. Oregon faces the economic and emergency preparedness challenges brought on by more frequent extreme weather events, floods and forest wildfires, reduced supply of stream water vital to its agriculture and hydroelectric power plants, and challenges brought about by a rising and more acidified sea.
“Our president just sounded the alarm and gave us some hope,” commented 350 PDX activist, scientist and mother Adriana Voss-Andreae. “If we want to keep our planet and our region safe for our children, we must keep fossil fuels such as coal in the ground and stop investing in the very companies that are devastating our climate.”
For immediate release
Portland’s in! Mayor Charlie Hales helps Portland join over a dozen US cities pursuing divestment from fossil fuels, urges state to follow suit
PORTLAND, OR—Just two hours after members of 350 PDX, the local chapter of Bill McKibben’s organization 350.org, urged the Portland City Council to divest any funds it may have tied to fossil fuel companies, Mayor Charlie Hales announced his support for fossil-fuel divestment in Portland and urged the state of Oregon to follow suit during a keynote speech for UN World Environment Day. This announcement adds Portland to a growing list of more than a dozen US cities committed to total divestment over the next five years.
350 PDX was delighted by the news after having worked hard over the past few months on building momentum for divestment through a grassroots effort that included signature gathering for a petition directed at the Portland City Council and direct contact with city council members. 350 PDX organizer Adam Brunelle expressed his group’s excitement: “Given that our atmosphere recently reached the dubious milestone of 400ppm of CO2, we are thrilled not only that our Mayor recognizes the urgency of the issue, but that he also recognizes fossil fuels as risky long-term investments.”
“Why take this seemingly risky investment strategy?” Hales offered. “Because [NOT] doing it is the truly risky move. The vast majority of fossil fuel assets are owned by 200 publicly traded companies. Eventually, these companies will burn through their entire reserves. We don’t know when that will happen, but by definition, we know that it must.”
“By acting locally,” Hales declared, “we can send a message to the world that investment in fossil fuels is a losing proposition, and that loosening our dependence on fossil fuels will increase our quality of life.”
350 PDX citizen activist Dr. Adriana Voss-Andreae, a mother concerned for her children’s future, commented: “The message is loud and clear: If it is wrong to wreck the climate and the planet, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. We thank the Mayor for hearing our message and showing bold leadership by asking our state to do the same.”
“The City,” Hales said, “must urge the Oregon State Treasurer, the Local Government Investment Pool and the Oregon Investment Council to divest of all state holdings in fossil fuels.”
Come to the next 350 PDX meeting!
This Saturday, June 8th
@ Red & Black Cafe
400 SE 12th Ave, Portland, OR
There are lots of opportunities to get involved!
Possible project groups include:
Media & Communications
Summer Heat (350.org event)
NW Fossil Fuel Exports