Clean Yield’s Eric Becker Testifies in Support of Vermont Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill

On March 27, 2013, Clean Yield’s Chief Investment Officer Eric Becker testified before the Vermont Senate Committee on Government Operations in support of S. 131, which calls upon the state’s pension fund to divest itself from fossil fuels within three years.

A practitioner of socially responsible investment for nearly 20 years, Eric brings experience and perspective to the fossil fuel divestment debate, as the one-time manager of the Green Century Balanced Fund, one of only two fossil-free mutual funds available to investors. His testimony communicated Clean Yield’s commitment to using its leverage in the markets to fight climate change: “Business as usual is not an acceptable strategy given what we know. That applies to both government policy regarding fossil fuels and investment strategy as well.”

In six pages of referenced testimony (available here), Eric addressed several arguments that divestment opponents have relied upon: that fossil fuels would increase risk, reduce returns, impose expensive transaction costs and violate the pension fund’s fiduciary obligations. He concluded that two recent reports provided to the pension fund “overstate the hard costs of divestment, as well as the potentially increased risks and diminished returns. While there are real hurdles to implementing a divestment policy, they can be addressed in a prudent fashion if [the Vermont Pension Investment Committee] is given adequate time to develop and implement a plan to do so.” (The Vermont Pension Investment Committee oversees the investments of three public employee retirement systems.

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