New Yorkers Rally at NYC Pension Meeting Calling for Full Fossil Fuel Divestment

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New Yorkers Rally at NYC Pension Meeting Calling for Full Fossil Fuel Divestment

As global commitments surpass $5 trillion, New Yorkers call out pensions for lagging, urge full divestment from fossil fuels and reinvestment in communities

NEW YORK - Despite below freezing temperatures, over 50 New Yorkers rallied outside the quarterly New York City pension funds meeting, urging decision-makers to fully divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in a sustainable economy that works for all New Yorkers. This comes just three days after reports revealed that the global fossil fuel divestment movement has doubled in the last year.

Representing $180 billion, New York City’s pension funds have yet to take necessary bold action on par with what the climate crisis requires, explained the organizers of the action.

“As the hottest year in recorded history comes to a close, New York has a unique responsibility to step into its leadership to fully divest and take meaningful action on climate,” said Beta Coronel, 350.org Reinvestment Coordinator. “New York has often been a beacon of progressive action, but its current ties to fossil fuel companies like Exxon stand in the way of it being a true leader on climate. In the face of an anti-climate Trump administration, it’s more critical than ever that New York pick up on the regression we anticipate at the federal level.”

Participating groups represented a broad spectrum of New York society, including pensioners, union members, teachers, students, faith leaders, business representatives, and more. Organizers rallied outside of Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office ahead of the meeting. Following the rally, security allowed around half of the group to bear witness to the proceedings. Despite the meeting being open to the public, they turned nearly half the group away from entering due to capacity issues.

"With the recent elections, the need for local governments to provide leadership on climate change is more imperative than ever,” said Mark Dunlea of 350NYC. “We appreciate the leadership of the Mayor and the pension trustees in requiring a study on the climate impact of the pension fund investments.”

Despite climate change posing an immediate existential threat for New York, the pensions still invest heavily in fossil fuel companies.Recent reports have revealed, at business as usual, New York City is at risk for Sandy-like flooding at least every 20 years. Superstorm Sandy was the second-costliest storm in US history just behind Hurricane Katrina. With over $65 billion in damages, communities across New York are bearing the financial and emotional brunt of Sandy over four years later.

Organizers shined a spotlight on the hypocrisy of New York investing in companies like ExxonMobil. Investigative reports revealed Exxon knew about climate change as far back as the 1970s, yet the company’s executives chose to embark on a decades-long campaign of deception. Exxon is now the world’s biggest fracker, a practice New York State banned after a decade of organizing around health and climate impacts. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is currently investigating Exxon for potential fraud. Despite this, ExxonMobil is the second largest investment of the New York City Employee Retirement System at a staggering $251 million.

New York’s investments in the likes of Exxon are also financially dangerous. A February 2016 report revealed that the Teacher’s Retirement System of the City of New York lost approximately $135 million from its holdings in fossil fuel companies in one year alone.

“Divesting New York’s pensions from fossil fuels is more important than ever. Union members, like myself, are not only worried about risking the pensions we’ve worked our whole lives to build, but also about the communities we live and work in that are at risk with increasing climate impacts and weather related catastrophes,” said Lalita Singh, member of New York City’s largest municipal employee union, DC37, and a School Aid in the Rockaways. “Scott Stringer and the Board of Trustees must choose a side: to continue funding climate change through investments in companies like Exxon, or to take action on climate, divest and reinvest to save our future and beloved communities.”

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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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