Mass’s pension fund. does not go far enough in its climatic position

Take what we learned with apartheid: divestment is the answer

The article “State Pension Fund Joins the Fight Against Climate Change: Votes to Pressure Corporations to Act” (Metro, February 18) reminded us of the 1980s campaign to divest from companies operating in apartheid South Africa. At the time, the Reverend Leon Sullivan proposed Principles for Shareholder Action that urged US companies operating in South Africa to demand equal treatment for all workers instead of divesting from South Africa. They did not question the legitimacy of the apartheid system. In response to this, Archbishop Desmond Tutu claimed that black South Africans didn’t want their chains polished, they wanted them removed. The Massachusetts legislature agreed with Tutu and, with broad community support, passed legislation requiring the state pension fund to divest itself of these companies.

The recent vote by the State Retirement Reserves Investment Management Board, which calls for using shareholder power to change corporate behavior, is similar to Sullivan’s principles in that it “is a alternative to fossil fuel divestment”. Global fossil fuel divestment commitments are now approaching $40 trillion, nearly 12% of which are pension funds. We hope the state pension fund will join the global effort to divest from fossil fuel companies and not settle for more incremental approaches.

Suzette Abbott

Brookline

Richard Clapp

Jamaica plain

Abbott was born in South Africa. Clapp is professor emeritus at the Boston University School of Public Health.

It is not enough to encourage companies to change

The article “State pension fund joins fight against climate change” glosses over the failed story of shareholder action as a forceful measure against climate change. While this has resulted in minimal gains, none have been commensurate with the climate catastrophe we face.

Divestment, on the other hand, represents a powerful statement that our money should help find solutions to the climate crisis, not prolong it. Large-scale divestment ($40 trillion so far) deals a blow to the fossil fuel industry’s plans to continue growing in the face of an existential crisis.

Besides, why would we even want our money in an industry whose products we are legally required to stop using within the next 30 years? Our retirees want a habitable planet for their children and grandchildren.

For practical, moral and financial reasons, the State Retirement Reserve Investment Management Board should be disengaged from the fossil fuel industry as soon as possible.

David Klafter

Brookline

Dolores W. Simon