“In this closing window of time to act, Boston must lead by taking every possible step for climate justice. Divesting from harmful industries to invest in sustainable and healthy jobs is not only the pathway to a green and resilient future; it’s also the most responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “I’m thankful to the many advocates who fought for this important win and am so proud to take a big step forward towards a Boston Green New Deal today. Together, we are putting Boston on a path towards a healthier, brighter future.”
The City of Boston’s recently elected mayor, Michelle Wu, made history by signing an ordinance on November 22, 2021 (WBUR) that orders the city to divest $65 million dollars away from tobacco products, private incarceration facilities, and fossil fuels. It was her first significant policy decision after being sworn into office on November 16, 2021. More specifically, the ordinance requires that, by 2025, (City of Boston) city funds are divested from and prohibited from “being invested in the stocks, securities, or other obligations of any company which derives more than 15% of its revenue from fossil fuels, tobacco products, or prison facilities” (WBUR). Fossil fuel investments are defined by the City of Boston as “any company which 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, and electric distribution companies with corporate affiliates that derive revenue from fossil fuels (City of Boston). This decision supports Wu’s overall goal of “growing a low-carbon, resource-efficient, and socially inclusive economy” (City of Boston)
The ordinance was sponsored by Councilor Edwards, Councilor O’Malley, and Councilor Wu (who served as a Councilor prior to her election) and was passed by the Boston City Council unanimously. Both Wu and O’Malley have used their time on the City Council to investigate the effects of, and later push for, divestment from the fossil fuel industry (City of Boston). On the day of signing, O’Malley voiced his support stating that divestment was an “appropriate value statement,” as well as a financially prudent decision, because “the Dow Jones Sustainability Index routinely outperforms the Dow Jones Industrial Average,” and added that “This is a really big day for this city, and mark my words, other cities will follow suit” (WBUR). This ordinance has also been hailed by prominent environmentalists such as U.S. Senator Edward Markey and Bill McKibben (WBUR).
This ordinance follows two major Boston institutions, Boston University (BU.edu) and Harvard University (EcoWatch), as well as New York City (EcoWatch), each of which announced their divestment plans earlier in 2021. This is a decision particularly relevant to and necessary for Boston, as it is already being impacted by climate change, primarily through changes and extremes in heat and precipitation. Just one example of this can be found in their subway, which has required the funding of millions into short-term projects to prevent flooding in the system (ECOWatch).
Overall, this is very encouraging news from Boston, and I hope that Mayor Michelle Wu continues to be a leader for climate change action.