ANNAPOLIS–Maryland has sacrificed millions of dollars in potential returns by investing in fossil fuel companies responsible for the climate crisis, according to a recent report analyzing the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System (SRPS). The SRPS has sacrificed returns of more than 15 percentage points since 2010 in the public equities portion of the fund by buying and holding dirty energy stocks.
The report — published by researchers at FFI Solutions — examines Maryland’s holdings in the Carbon Underground 200 (CU200). The CU200 identifies the top 100 coal and top 100 oil and gas publicly-traded reserve holders globally ranked by the potential carbon emissions content of their reported reserves. Despite Maryland’s vulnerability to climate change, the report shows that as of September 2021, the SRPS had holdings in 162 of these CU200 companies. Of these fossil fuel investments, the two portfolio’s largest holdings – that is, by the percentage that these companies hold in the portfolio – were Exxon Mobil and Chevron. Although Maryland permanently banned “fracking” in 2017, the SRPS had holdings in companies that engage in fracking in nearby states. Further, the report shows that as of September 2021, the SRPS portfolio held well over half a billion dollars ($623,093,558) in securities of CU200 companies.
Since 2010, the FFI report shows that by removing CU200 fossil fuel companies, the public equities portfolio would have outperformed the non-divested portfolio by 15.19 percentage points over the backtest period. In reality, the holdings in the portfolio grew 128.58% since 2010. Without the CU200 holdings, the portfolio would have grown 143.77%. Put differently, for every $1,000 invested by the public equities portfolio in 2010, returns would be $150 greater today had the portfolio divested from the CU200 companies. During this period, the FFI report also shows that the SRPS would not have been at higher risk of sudden increases or decreases of returns as a result of divesting from fossil fuel holdings.
“This report is a double whammy of bad news,” said Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and CCAN Action Fund. “By investing in dirty coal and tar sands, Maryland’s state pension fund is lowering the retirement funds of our teachers and firefighters AND contributing to global warming. It’s time for the state legislature to demand divestment from fossil fuels to protect our climate and our retirees.”
“Maryland is falling behind other state pensions as it continues to hold dirty and unprofitable coal, oil and gas investments,” said Jeff Weisner, Steering Committee President at 350 Montgomery County. “Our state pension needs to put its money where our values are and get out of fossil fuels.”
“Thousands of educators in Maryland, myself included, are relying on the pension system to be strong for the decades to come. It’s clear now that divesting from fossil fuels is the best path forward for the SRPS to protect the system from delivering subpar financial returns,” said Chris Wilhelm, an English as a Second Language teacher at Northwood High School in Silver Spring, MD. Most Maryland public school teachers are participants in the SRPS.
The report is broken down into three sections: a snapshot report showing the SRPS fossil fuel holdings, a diagnostic report that examines the holdings in more detail, and a backtest report showing the estimated performance of the portfolio with and without the fossil fuel holdings over time.
The report from FFI Solutions was commissioned by CCAN Action Fund and 350 MoCo. FFI Solutions is a research and analytics-driven advisory firm that empowers investors and asset managers to transition to more sustainable investments. For more information on the methodology of the report, you can contact Michael Palmieri at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The CCAN Action Fund is the advocacy arm of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the oldest and largest grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For almost 20 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
350MoCo fights for climate justice and fossil fuel divestment in Montgomery County, MD, and has led on multiple local and state climate issues, including making the County set some of the strongest greenhouse gas reduction targets in the nation.