Seattle is divesting in fossil fuels & Wells Fargo

Citizen activists, organized by 350 Seattle and other groups, held an afternoon press conference and rally Feb 15, 2017 in Seattle City Hall to deliver a letter to the mayor, council and the retirement board. Speakers, who signed the letter, including Councilmember Kshama Sawant and me, told how the impact of climate change is real.

For instance, the world’s foremost body of experts working on the problem of climate change is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In their most recent report the IPCC found that to have any chance of curtailing climate change, we must divest over $30 billion annually from the fossil fuel sector and invest an additional $147 billion annually in the clean energy sector.

For that reason, over 600 institutions across the globe representing more than $5.2 trillion in assets have committed to some level of fossil fuel divestment. We hope you will agree that it is time for the City of Seattle’s multi-billion dollar pension fund to do the same.

Seattle’s city government under previous Mayor Mike McGinn and now under Mayor Ed Murray has blazed a trail for protecting our environment. In 2013, Mayor McGinn announced the city would divest its own holdings and begin the process of divesting the pension. Last year Mayor Murray committed the city to environmental justice, through an Equity and Environment Agenda. This was the first-of-its-kind Initiative that has led with the voices of those most-affected by environmental inequities.

Just last week the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a bill to divest $3 billion from Wells Fargo because of its illegal practices of bilking clients and for financing the Dakota Access Pipeline project, which would significantly contribute to climate change. Seattle was the first city in the nation to take that action and other cities are now considering a similar move.

And, divesting pension funds from fossil fuel investments is a sounder practice than keeping them in that market. A financial report commissioned by 350 Seattle that shows that the City of Seattle has lost over $65 million by remaining in fossil fuels in the last ten years.

Seattle is a national leader in protecting our quality of life. Protecting our environment is basic to that pursuit. Divestment in fossil fuels is the next necessary step that Seattle must take on that path. Seattle was the first major city in the nation to $15 an hour for minimum wage. We embolden other cities to join that effort. Seattle is on the verge of doing it again with divesting from fossil fuels within its retirement account.

Nick Licata, a former Seattle City Councilmember,
 is author of the book, “Becoming a Citizen Activist.”