State Treasurers are key actors
We must move capital to address climate change, and some of the largest pools of capital are owned and managed by the public sector. Government defined benefit (DB) pension plans — including federal, state, and local government plans—held $7.1 trillion in assets as of the end of March 2021.
State Treasurers, through their roles in overseeing state pensions, 529 college savings plans and other assets, have untapped power over decisions that affect climate change.State Treasurers are usually elected — sometimes appointed — public officials who have influence over huge pools of assets.The state pension funds they oversee in the U.S. are worth over $4.5 trillion. Pension funds are the retirement savings of public employees such as teachers, firefighters, and social service workers.
State treasurers have an even greater ability to influence the biggest investors in the world: asset managers like BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street.These asset managers can decisively pressure the highest emitting companies causing the climate crisis. Treasurers and assets they represent are some of the largest, most valuable customers/clients of the asset managers. So treasurers can use the shareholder power they have and also pressure their asset managers to do the same.
The public ownership of these assets represents untapped power to confront the climate crisis.These asset owners (state treasurers and other public officials) can and should use their outsized power to push for significant change at the companies where this capital is invested.
We believe that these public officials can be moved to exercise their shareholder power through community power being brought to bear to pressure them to do so. We believe the will exists, the activists exist, and the strategic opportunities exist to organize and leverage this community power to make shareholder power a much more powerful force to address the climate crisis.
We believe that this work requires building the power and capacity of existing grassroots groups within those states, and that building power in states on climate finance takesconsistent engagement.