Boston to Divest From Fossil Fuels, Tobacco, Private Prisons

The city’s mayor signed a bill to eliminate the controversial investments by 2025. 

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has signed into law an ordinance to divest the city from the fossil fuel, tobacco, and private prison industries by the end of 2025. The ordinance prohibits using public funds to invest in the stocks, securities, or other obligations of any company that derives more than 15% of its revenue from those industries.

Under the new law, fossil fuel investments are defined as investments in any company that derives more than 15% of its revenue from the combustion, distribution, extraction, manufacture, or sale of fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas, or fossil fuel products. It also includes electric distribution companies with corporate affiliates that derive revenue from fossil fuels.

The ordinance also requires the issuance of a report to track the city’s investments, including plans to improve its holdings 120 days after the law’s passage. In 2014, Wu presided over a Boston City Council hearing that examined the potential effects of fossil fuel divestment and its relation to the city’s economy. She also provided testimony at the state in support of city/state divestment from fossil fuels.

Boston is among an increasing number of municipalities, universities, and private foundations that have announced plans to divest from fossil fuels. In late October, ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP26, Auckland, New Zealand; Copenhagen, Denmark; Glasgow, Scotland; Paris; Rio de Janeiro; and Seattle announced commitments to divest from fossil fuel companies and increase investments to make cities more sustainable. Also last month, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott signed a bill that requires the city’s three pension funds to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

Those are in addition to divestment commitments made last year by Berlin; Bristol, England; Cape Town, South Africa; Durban, South Africa; London; Los Angeles; Milan; New Orleans; New York City; Oslo; Norway; Pittsburgh; and Vancouver, Canada.

“Cities are at the forefront of tackling the climate emergency and there is real momentum to move investments away from fossil fuels and toward climate solutions,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is chair-elect of C40 Cities, a network of mayors working to confront climate change, said in a statement. “I will continue to encourage more cities to join the movement, and urge national governments and private finance institutions to mobilize more finance to invest directly in cities to support a green and fair recovery.”

Related Stories:

Massachusetts Bill Calls for Fossil Fuel Divestment

Boston University Joins Harvard in Divesting From Fossil Fuels

Maine Becomes First State to Pass Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill

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