Divesting from Fossil Fuels for a Cleaner and Stronger Future

This past week, I attended the North American Climate Summit in Chicago. It was a moment for cities and towns across the continent to affirm our commitment to responsible and sustainable environmental policies.

At the same time as were making this pledge, the federal administration announced plans to drastically reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah, opening up the possibility for oil and gas exploration in these pristine natural landscapes.

That is the kind of administration we are up against.

Frustrating as it may be, this leadership void at the federal level presents an opportunity. When the administration fails, our towns and cities will rise to the challenge.

In San Francisco, we are poised to be one of the first major cities in the nation to divest from the fossil fuel industry in our pension fund, an issue our Retirement Board will vote on next month. We want to take a responsible, phased approach to this divestment plan that protects the well-earned financial security of our retirees by identifying the riskiest, dirtiest assets in our portfolio first. Those will be replaced by cleaner, higher-performing assets. The move to divest from fossil fuels is part of a collaborative City effort, and I am thankful for the dedication and hard work of Supervisors Malia Cohen and Aaron Peskin on this issue.

By taking the bold step to divest from fossil fuel assets, we are once again taking a strong stand on the essential issue of the environment. We were proud to sign the Chicago Climate Charter last week, signaling our commitment to meet environmental goals outlined in the Paris Accord. Shamefully, our country is now the only nation in the world that is not part of the international pact, but by banding together with other cities, states and regions we can help ensure that American remains on track to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

These powerful coalitions do not stop at the national border, either. San Francisco is also part of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy organizations that represent more than 7,500 cities, 684 million people worldwide and one quarter of the world’s global economy.

We will continue this collaborative and productive relationship next year, when our city hosts the Global Climate Action Summit alongside Governor Jerry Brown, Michael Bloomberg and the United Nations. During that conference, we will have the opportunity to tout our city’s considerable environmental achievements. We have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions 28 percent below our 1990 levels — the equivalent of taking 380,000 cars off the road.

We were able to reduce those emissions at the same time as our city’s population increased by 19 percent and our economy grew by 78 percent — debunking the myth parroted by the federal administration that responsible environmental policies and a strong economy are mutually exclusive goals.

We are just getting started, too. We are well on our way to meeting our 50 percent renewable power goal by 2020 and our 100 percent goal by 2030.

In an ideal world, we would be bolstered in these efforts by the federal government. But as we have proven time and again, we will forge ahead without the help of Washington D.C. But we will not be alone.

We will be joined by our partners across the country and world, who share the same vision of a global community united together in the fight against the greatest challenge of our time — the threat of climate change. San Francisco will not allow our country to fail this crucial test.