Hawaii lawmakers will be asking themselves this week if the state should be investing millions of dollars in oil, gas and coal companies at a time when climate change threatens the planet as we know it.

Senate Bill 2155 would require the Employees’ Retirement System to divest its investment portfolio of coal, oil and gas companies by July 2021.

The bill was introduced by Sens. Mike Gabbard, Les Ihara, Gil Keith-Agaran, Russell Ruderman, Roz Baker, Brickwood Galuteria, Breene Harimoto and Maile Shimabukuro.

Sen Mike Gabbard speaks to media during Governor Ige's bill signing ceremony. 8 june 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Sen. Mike Gabbard, seen here during a press conference with Gov. David Ige, is the lead sponsor on a bill to divest from fossil fuel companies.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Judiciary and Labor Committee, chaired by Keith-Agaran, is set to hear it at 9 a.m. Friday in conference room 016 at the Capitol.

The legislation points at the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Mexico in which the world agreed that global temperatures should not rise more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over the preindustrial average temperature.

Despite that accord, the International Energy Agency says the planet is on track to be double that limit by 2050.

The 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference in France recognized the same issue and countries agreed to keep the global average temperature below 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bevis Longstreth, a former commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, has recommended divestment of fossil fuel companies “as an important strategy to help control carbon emissions and to reduce the financial impact on investment funds resulting from the inevitable policy changes that will be needed to reduce carbon emissions,” the bill says.

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents took steps in May to divest its endowment funds from fossil fuel investments.

And now, lawmakers are looking at doing so on a bigger scale.

In its 2013 series about the state pension system, Civil Beat found that the ERS was investing millions of dollars in oil, gas and coal companies. At the time, the agency had 444,410 shares in Conocophillips worth $30.9 million, and 249,340 shares in Chevron valued at $30.3 million. Plus tens of millions of dollars more invested in Occidental Petroleum, Total Sa, Schlumberger, Hess Corp and Royal Dutch Shell.

If the bill clears the Judiciary and Labor Committee, its next stop would be the Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Sen. Jill Tokuda.

A similar bill stalled last year in the House but has been revived this session. House Bill 1511 was deferred last week and is set to be heard at 2 p.m., Tuesday, by the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, chaired by Rep. Chris Lee.

The bill has a triple referral, meaning it has to clear three committees (Labor and Finance are the other two) before a full vote from the House.

However, the latest draft of HB 1511 just calls for a feasibility study of the ERS divesting from fossil fuel companies and an assessment of the risks.

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