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Divest NY Protest

Members of the campaign to Divest New York state's pension funds from fossil fuel holdings held a protest outside Arnhold Hall at the New School in New York City on March 26, 2018. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'Historic' NYC Pension Fund Fossil Fuel Divestment Heralded as Model for Others

One activist said this is what "every pension fund can and should" do to address the climate crisis.

Jessica Corbett

In what climate campaigners on Wednesday celebrated as not only a "historic" win but also a model for the rest of the country, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and trustees of major public pensions funds announced a $3 billion divestment from fossil fuels.

"Today is a major victory for our planet, our children, and our pensioners."

"We'd like to thank Comptroller Stringer, for his years of public service and his leadership in protecting our pensions and our planet by divesting from fossil fuel investments. Thank you for joining the fight to reduce the money flowing to the world's most dangerous polluters," said 350NYC Steering Committee member Dorian Fulvio.

Stand.earth Climate Finance Program director Richard Brooks declared that "once again, New York City is a beacon of progressive climate action."

"This ahead-of-schedule and unprecedentedly transparent completion of one of the biggest fossil fuel divestments translates words and commitment into real action," he said. "Every pension fund and investor needs to pay attention: If divestment can be completed in New York, it can and should happen everywhere."

Stand.earth earlier this month published what it called a "first-of-its-kind" analysis exposing how U.S. public pension funds are "bankrolling the climate crisis." The advocacy group and fund beneficiaries nationwide responded to the findings by demanding divestment from fossil fuel holdings as well as investment in "just and equitable climate solutions."

New York City leaders in January 2018 committed to divesting major public pension funds from fossil fuel reserve companies within five years, and have urged others to follow suit.

On Wednesday, Stringer and trustees of the New York City Employees' Retirement System (NYCERS) and the New York City Board of Education Retirement System (BERS) revealed that those funds "have completed their process of divesting approximately $1.8 billion and $100 million in securities, respectively," bringing the total for all funds to approximately $3 billion.

The announcement featured the full list of combined divested securities from the NYCERS and BERS portfolios. Companies include oil giants BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell.

"The New York City Teachers' Retirement System's (TRS) divestment is underway with over $1 billion divested to date, and is expected to be complete by Q1 2022 with approximately $1 billion remaining," the statement added, noting that "TRS utilized a different investment consultant and employed different criteria" than the other two funds and its list will be released upon completion of its divestment.

"Today is a major victory for our planet, our children, and our pensioners," Stringer said Wednesday. "The successful divestment of $3 billion out of fossil fuels is proof-positive that environmental and fiscal responsibility go hand in hand. New York City is leading the way toward a clean, green, and sustainable economy, and the impacts of the actions we are announcing today will be felt for generations to come."

The city comptroller also thanked those who made the divestment happen, saying that "today is made possible by so many people—the trustees whose leadership and steadfast commitment to our pensioners' retirement security kept this process on track, investment experts who made sure that every step of this process was thoughtful and fiduciarily sound, to advocates who sounded the alarm about the growing financial and environmental risks posed by climate change."


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