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By Julian Peeples

A long-standing discussion about fossil fuel investments by the State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) continued during a forum held at the State Council of Education meeting in March.

The 90-minute session looked at the best path forward to address the climate crisis in relation to approximately $6 billion in investments in fossil fuel producers held by CalSTRS. Hosted by CTA Vice President David Goldberg, the forum focused on two approaches: immediate divestment from all fossil fuels versus a gradual transition to fossil fuel net zero by 2050.

“We have got to get to 100 percent clean renewable energy as fast as possible, which means we have to dismantle the fossil fuel industry as fast as possible,” said Mark Norberg, a member of Burbank Teachers Association, who spoke in favor of divestment. “We can do this. We have the influence to quite literally save the planet.”

On the transition side, CalSTRS Deputy Chief Investment Officer Scott Chan said divestment has a potential loss of $20 billion for the fund. He said CalSTRS’ path to net zero includes engaging companies, influencing policies, investing in climate solutions, and managing risk.

“If our move to net zero undermines our ability to pay the pension promise, then we need to put the brakes on it,” said Harry Keiley, CalSTRS Board chair and member of Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association.

At the meeting, State Council took a “Watch” position on SB 1173 (Gonzalez), which would prohibit CalSTRS from making or renewing investments in fossil fuels and require full divestment by July 1, 2027. The bill is awaiting hearings in multiple legislative committees.

For more information on CalSTRS’ transition approach, visit calstrs.com/path-to-net-zero. To learn more about the divestment approach, visit ctadivest.org (a pro-divestment website not endorsed by CTA).

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