New York State Pension Fund Lost $5.3 Billion From Fossil Fuel Holdings

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Lindsay Meiman, (347) 460-9082

New York State Pension Fund Lost $5.3 Billion From Fossil Fuel Holdings

ALBANY, NY - The New York State Common Retirement Fund (NYS-CRF) lost at least $5.3 billion 1 from their investments in the top 200 coal, oil, and gas companies, according to a new report from Corporate Knights. New York State’s $189.4 billion pension fund is the third largest in the nation, just following California’s CalPERS and CalSTRS, which are now required by law to divest from thermal coal.

This groundbreaking report comes as politicians, environmentalists and financial experts gather in Albany for a forum on the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act co-sponsored by New York State Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz. This is the first statewide climate legislation that calls for full divestment from coal, oil and gas.

“The era of fossil fuels is coming to an end, and this report demonstrates very clearly why divestment is not only environmentally sound, but financially responsible,” said New York State Senator Liz Krueger, co-sponsor of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act. “By staying invested in fossil fuels over the last three years our state pension fund missed out on over $5 billion in potential returns. Investment in fossil fuels is a sinking ship, and it's high time we headed for the lifeboats."

This report comes as New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman continues his investigation of Exxon to determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business. Despite this ongoing investigation, the state’s retirement system continues to invest directly around a billion dollars in Exxon Mobil.

“New York is a rich state, but perhaps not so rich it can afford to waste billions investing in failing business models -- especially when the warming caused by those companies will cost a fortune to deal with!,” said Bill McKibben, Co-Founder of 350.org. “New York has made bold moves for climate such as banning fracking and phasing out coal-fired power plants, yet the pension fund continues to invest in both of these destructive and outdated extraction practices.”

This massive loss of $5.3 billion is the equivalent to putting over $4500 back in the pockets of each of the 1.1 million members statewide, and could have covered nearly 12 percent of the state costs from devastating climate change-fueled Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“Our analysis with the Decarbonizer suggests the New York State Common Retirement Fund's equity portfolio would have been at least $5.3 billion better off had it divested from the biggest oil, gas and coal companies three years ago in favour of companies providing climate solutions,” said Toby Heaps, CEO of Corporate Knights, an investment research company. “This number is a conservative estimate based on the equities side of the fund. The energy transition away from old fossil fuel energy to new clean energy is underway and investors who cling to fossil fuel holdings risk substantial value destruction over the long-term.”

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350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth. But solutions exist. All around the world, a movement is building to take on the climate crisis, to get humanity out of the danger zone and below 350. This movement is massive, it is diverse, and it is visionary. We are activists, scholars, and scientists. We are leaders in our businesses, our churches, our governments, and our schools. We are clean energy advocates, forward-thinking politicians, and fearless revolutionaries. And we are united around the world, driven to make our planet livable for all who come after us.

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