Study Shows Pension Funds' Refusal to Divest From Fossil Fuels Cost Retired Teachers, Firefighters, and Public Workers $19 Billion

Amid global demands for immediate and bold climate action, a new economic analysis released Tuesday reveals that the pensions of working-class people are paying the price for continued investments in the same fossil fuel companies that are ruining the planet.

Toronto-based firm Corporate Knights revealed in a new study that three major state pension funds in California and Colorado lost over $19 billion collectively as a result of investments in fossil fuel industries over ten years.

“As long as PERA’s money remains invested in the fossil fuel industry, that investment supports an industry that has willfully denied its role in climate change, accelerating today’s climate crisis in favor of profits.”
—Devon Reynolds, PERA memberCalSTRS and CalPERS, which represent nearly three million retired teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public employees, lost out on more than $17 billion over a decade. Those losses came as the pension funds invested people’s retirement savings in extractive industries, which are losing jobs and stock value as the renewable energy sector has added jobs in recent years.

The funds’ members lost an average of $5,572 and $6,072 per person, respectively.

Colorado’s pension fund for state retirees would have gained an additional $1.7 billion in value if it hadn’t invested in fossil fuels, Corporate Knights reported, translating to a loss of nearly $3,000 per member.

The global grassroots movement urged those affected by fossil fuel investments to call for immediate divestment.