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Letters to the Editor: Fossil fuels must be phased out. How does investing in them make financial sense?

An oil pump on a river
An oil pump at Chevron’s Kern River Oil Field north of Bakersfield is seen on May 9.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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To the editor: William Prezant, chair of the investment committee of the California State Teachers’ Retirement Board, argues that divesting California’s pension funds of their fossil fuel stocks “essentially transfers shares to other investors who may be unwilling to engage companies about climate change.”

Many other large investors have made this argument, but the evidence shows that engaging fossil fuel companies about climate change has accomplished very little. Just last week, when the Church of England divested, the archbishop of Canterbury explained that years of shareholder engagement simply hadn’t made enough of a difference.

If California’s public employee pensions still believe in shareholder engagement, I think they should prove that their interactions are making a difference. What efforts have they made, and what concrete results have been achieved?

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I suspect that investors, even as large as these, are powerless to force fossil fuel companies to change.

It makes no fiduciary sense to invest in companies whose continued operation must be phased out for the survival of this planet. Prezant should seriously reconsider if these risky investments fulfill the mission to “secure the financial future of California’s public school teachers.”

David Lappen, Santa Monica

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