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'Mandatory for Anyone With an Ounce of Awareness': Climate Coalition Calls on New York State to Divest From Fossil Fuels

"We believe we must speak up in the face of the planetary emergency precipitated by the climate crisis."

A protester holds a banner at the rally outside JP Morgan Headquarters in Manhattan, New York. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A coalition of more than 1,100 academics and organizations called on New York lawmakers Thursday to divest the state's retirement fund from fossil fuels and enact the state-level Fossil Fuel Divestment Act.

"The urgency for action is unquestionable," the coalition wrote in a letter to New York state senators and assembly members as well as Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "It is time for New York State, which has been at the head of forward-thinking, progressive policy, to assume leadership in the movement towards fossil fuel divestment and devote its vast capital to building a truly secure future, not only for pension holders, but for all of humanity. Please demonstrate your commitment to creating a better future by supporting and passing the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act."

The bill, which currently sits in the state senate's Civil Service and Pensions Committee, would limit investments of public pension funds in fossil fuel companies. New York State's Common Retirement Fund (CRF) is one of the largest pension funds in the country.

"The West Coast is on fire, the Arctic is in full-melt mode, the oil industry is losing money hand over fist—we've reached the point where divesting is not just sensible, it's mandatory for anyone with an ounce of awareness," said 350.org co-found Bill McKibben in support of the legislation's passage.

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According to the letter, the CRF is valued at more than $210 billion and "invests billions in fossil fuel companies that are driving the climate crisis."

"Pensions are meant to provide a secure future for employees and we believe investments in fossil fuel companies are antithetical to that purpose," the coaliton wrote. "Fossil fuel investments are premised on the idea of earning monetary returns from an industry that is a known existential threat to our future and a dangerous hazard to our public health. Investing in these companies is a climate, health, and financial dead end. On the basis of science, we believe that continued investment of the CRF in the fossil fuel industry is both immoral and an unacceptable financial and public policy risk."

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