Opinion: Oregon needs a public accounting of its climate risk
I support the passage of HB 4115, the Treasury Transparency Bill, which if passed will impact retirees and communities across the state. Frightening extreme weather events have focused my attention on how Oregon is addressing climate change.
The bad news: Of the $140 billion Treasury funds, a majority of which are PERS funds, an unknown portion are invested in fossil fuels. HB 4115 will require an annual public accounting of investments and a climate-risk assessment conducted by the Treasury.
As a retiree, I know that PERS members rely on prudent investment of their pensions to provide adequate income to live and contribute to their communities. Fossil-fuel investments are high risk, earning below-market returns. With the shift towards renewable energy, fossil-fuel companies will lose value as stranded assets pile up. HB 4115 will allow PERS members to see if their pension funds are being squandered by investment in low-return, potentially worthless assets.
HB 4115 is good governance. How can citizens trust an agency that does not provide full transparency? It should not be hard for taxpayers to find out how their tax dollars are being invested. Trust in government is essential for fully functioning participatory democracy. Making the Treasury's investments transparent will provide the information citizens need to effectively engage with their representatives.
HB 4115 is a crucial first step towards empowering citizens to advocate for Oregon to invest in line with its values. Through bold climate-action policies, Oregon centers its values on safeguarding citizens and natural resources. If Oregon's investments enable fossil fuel company operations to continue or expand, Oregon is enabling climate destruction and denying justice to impacted communities.
To promote a safe, secure and prosperous future, Oregon Legislature must pass HB 4115.
Nancy Friel is a resident of unincorporated Clackamas County near Happy Valley.
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