FALMOUTH – Rep. Dylan Fernandes’ bill to allow the 104 independent retirement systems in Massachusetts to divest from the fossil fuel industry (H.3662) has gained the support of two cities in the Metro-Boston region. The city councils of Cambridge and Somerville have passed resolutions calling on the Legislature to pass the Cape bill.
Somerville City Council President Katjana Ballantyne introduced the resolution April 25 and gained unanimous support from the Council. According to Ballantyne, “We all need to get out of these fossil fuel investments before we lose everything. We need to invest in alternatives to fossil fuels before all is lost.”
This development came on the heels of a similar resolution passed in February by the Cambridge City Council.
“I support H.3662 to give cities and towns local control over divesting their retirement funds from fossil fuels," said Jan Devereux, vice mayor of Cambridge. “Many Cambridge residents, businesses and municipal employees are working hard to reduce their carbon footprints, and it sends a mixed message for the city's retirement fund to hold investments that are in direct conflict with the goals of our Net Zero Ordinance and action plan.”
MassDivest introduced these resolutions in Somerville and Cambridge.
"With climate risk increasingly threatening the future, it is important for retirement systems to have the option to protect their assets from the decline of the fossil fuel industry," said Jessica Hanway, of MassDivest.
Fernandes’ bill provides legislative authorization deemed necessary by the Public Employees Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) via a local option mechanism that allows independent retirement systems to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The bill does not mandate divestment in the way that the Legislature has previously done with regard to tobacco and apartheid South Africa.
“The local option bill would allow fossil fuel divestment to move forward in Massachusetts,” said Randi Mail, legislative director of MassDivest. “Instead of a top-down approach, it would be bottom-up. This bill would empower 104 independent retirement systems at the city and county levels.”
Cambridge and Somerville have long histories of supporting fossil fuel divestment. Somerville has advocated for this move since Mayor Joseph Curtatone called for it in 2014.
“The need for urgency when it comes to cities addressing climate change cannot be understated,” Curtatone said. “Every city and town needs right now — not later — to be taking a close look at their carbon output, setting ambitious carbon reduction goals, and following through. Some of that work will be challenging and complex, but fossil fuel divestment is an impactful and fiscally responsible step we could all easily take right now with the help of Rep. Fernandes’ important bill.”
Fernandes cited this legislation in remarks to the organizers of Harvard University’s recent Heat Week event: “Investing is putting down money now for a long-term future gain, and you can't name a worse long-term future than one where climate change continues to ravage our cities and towns. That's why we need to divest from fossil fuels. As a millennial, there is no greater issue that’s going to impact my generation or my children’s generation than that of climate change, global warming and sea level rise. We need to get serious about this, and we need to get serious about it here in Massachusetts, which is why Rep. Jay Livingstone and I filed a bill that allows our 104 independent retirement boards to divest from fossil fuels.”
MassDivest is a coalition working to divest pension funds in Massachusetts from fossil fuels. They have partnered with Rep. Dylan Fernandes and Rep. Jay Livingstone on H.3662. MassDivest also works with Senator Marc Pacheco, who has introduced S.636, a similar bill in the Senate.