Chicago to Divest from Oil, Gas Investments Under Measure Backed by Mayor, Treasurer

(Karsten Würth / Unsplash)(Karsten Würth / Unsplash)

Chicago would permanently ban investments in oil and gas companies under a measure introduced Wednesday by Treasurer Melissa Conyears Ervin and backed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

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The measure, which could become law in March, ratifies decisions made by Conyears Ervin after her 2019 election to stop new investments in oil and gas firms while moving $70 million in investments, officials said. 

The move is a “necessary, important step toward ensuring a clean energy future for our city and our planet,” Conyears Ervin said.

The passage of this ordinance will signal that Chicago is “permanently leaving dirty energy in the past and welcoming a clean energy future for generations to come,” Conyears Ervin said.

Regulations issued by the treasurer's office ban investments in 225 companies that are coal, oil, and gas reserve owners, Conyears Ervin said. Chicago’s treasurer oversees the city’s $9 billion investment portfolio.

The measure would enshrine Conyears Ervin’s rules into law and ensure city money is not reinvested in fossil fuels, officials said. It would also require the city treasurer to update the list of coal, oil and gas reserve owners that the city is prohibited from investing and report annually on changes to the City Council’s Finance Committee.

If approved, Chicago will become the second largest city to full divest from fossil fuel companies, following New York City. The first bill signed by newly inaugurated Boston Mayor Michelle Wu pulled Boston’s investments from fossil fuel companies.

“Through our city's budgeting and finances, we are making a value statement that will make us a greener, more sustainable city and secure our fiscal future,” Lightfoot said.

In 2016, a measure introduced by former Ald. John Arena (45th Ward) called on the city to stop investing in companies that produce fossil fuels and sell its investments in oil and gas by 2022. That measure never got a hearing.

The Chicago City Council declared a climate emergency in February 2020, but that ceremonial measure did not call for concrete steps to reduce climate change.

Chicago officials are working to update its climate action plan, including carbon emission reduction targets and renewable energy goals.

Chicago’s 2022 budget earmarks $188 million for “climate mitigation, adaptation and environmental justice priorities.”

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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