Members of environmental group 350Juneau demonstrated in front of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation Wednesday, repeating their call to divest the state’s wealth fund from fossil fuel-related assets.
More than a dozen protesters gathered in front of the APFC building downtown at the same time the fund’s board of trustees had its quarterly meeting, according to 350Juneau member Rob Schroeder. The group submitted testimony to the board, as they have several times before, calling for divestment from fossil fuels and a risk assessment done on the fund’s investments in assets that may be threatened by climate change.
The protesters were encouraged by the news that earlier Wednesday the state of New York’s pension fund — valued at $226 billion, one of the largest in the world according to the New York Times — announced it was divesting from fossil fuels.
“You can see it as a victory for the climate movement,” Schroeder said at the protest, “but it’s kind of a victory for what’s right.”
In an email, APFC communications manager Paulyn Swanson said the fund prepares an annual report on fossil fuels at the end of each calendar year.
“APFC has heard the concerns that members of the public have brought forth during our board meetings and in correspondence with our staff,” she said. “The strength in our fiduciary duty to the Fund lies in our team’s ability not to be swayed by social and political influences but rather adhere to statutory guidelines based on best investment practices and a long-term asset allocation that balances risk and return.”
As of the Dec. 31, 2019, report, the latest available, APFC’ total exposure to fossil fuel-related assets was 5.73%, down from 7.21% at the end of 2018. The fund has increased its investments in renewable electricity, Swanson said, to 1.33% in 2019 up from 1.22% in 2018.
350Juneau argues that fossil fuels are not only irresponsible in terms of the climate, but that they’ve also lost their value as financial assets and are instead causing the Permanent Fund to lose money. Schroeder cited fossil fuel divestment by several large banks, including Goldman Sachs, as evidence those assets were a losing investment.
350Juneau also wants APFC to conduct a risk assessment of all its assets to determine which may be threatened by the effects of global climate change such as sea rise and move to more secure investments, Schroeder said.
Members of 350Juneau said the state is losing money by continuing to invest in fossil fuels and thereby violating its fiduciary duty to the state. “The fiduciary duty of (the fund) is not to favor one stock over another, it’s to find the best investment,” said group member Elaine Schroeder.
One protester, Noah Williams, said the fund should invest in infrastructure projects that will build for future generations rather than prop up dying industries.
“I think there’s a false dichotomy in solving the problems of today versus solving the problems of tomorrow,” he said. “You can do both.”
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.