PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – State Treasurer Tobias Read wants investments made by the Oregon Public Employee Pension Fund to result in net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The treasurer announced his intent to reassess the fund’s investments on Wednesday.
The Oregon Public Employee Pension Fund is a portfolio of investments used to pay pensions for local government employees. It totals approximately $90 billion in assets.
Read has a goal of “decarbonizing” the pension fund’s portfolio no later than 2050. He said the plan will align Oregon’s pension fund investments with the goals contained in the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to keep the average temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius.
“I have to ensure that these funds are as productive as possible, so we can meet our obligations to retirees, now and in the future. It’s clear that to do that, we have to address the risks of climate change to our investments and invest in the new technologies and strategies that combat it,” he said.
Establishing a net-zero carbon emission investment portfolio does not mean stopping all investments in carbon-producing companies. Instead, it means there must be a balance between investments in companies that produce carbon emissions and companies that remove emissions from the atmosphere.
The amount of greenhouse gas emissions removed by the companies the state pension fund invests in must offset those produced by all other investments.
Read intends to present his plan for consideration to the Oregon Investment Council no later than February 1, 2024. He is one of five voting members of the OIC. The other four voting members are appointed by the governor and approved by the Oregon Senate.
The plan will outline strategies to meet the net zero carbon emissions investment portfolio by 2050 or earlier. Read would also like to reach an interim goal of 50% decarbonization by 2035 and would like to determine the feasibility of meeting his net-zero goal as early as 2040.
He expects to have a timeline completed by Feb. 1, 2025, to review the Oregon State Treasury’s investments in tar sands, thermal coal and natural gas derived from fracking.
In his framework for the plan, Reed said he does not foresee immediate and broad sector-based divestments by the Oregon State Treasury being likely.
“Instead, ‘divestment’ should be used as a risk-reduction measure aimed at specific investments where this is a sustained, acute, and measurable financial risk and where an economic analysis demonstrates divesting would not negatively and materially impact OST-managed funds,” he wrote in the framework for the plan.
Read’s plan will establish a baseline emissions measurement and key targets for managing climate risks. It will also develop methods for measuring the treasury’s progress in meeting its targets and timelines.
“It will identify opportunities for expanded investments in low-carbon solutions and recommend ways to drive enhanced engagement with companies to ensure those companies are addressing their own climate-related risks and opportunities,” the treasurer’s office wrote in a news release.
Read said he’d like to see the treasury expand existing investments in renewable energy and clean technology.
The state treasurer already has the support of several lawmakers including Oregon Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner, Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, Rep. David Gomberg and Rep. Janelle Bynum.