For Immediate Release
Syracuse, NY Council Endorses Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, Calls on Statewide Elected Officials to Join
Pressure mounts on Comptroller DiNapoli as Syracuse announces intention to screen funds for fossil fuel companies
Syracuse, NY - Just over a week after a legislative hearing on the New York State Fossil Fuel Divestment Act (FFDA), Syracuse Councilors Joseph Driscoll and Michael Greene announced their city’s support for the FFDA and challenged mayors and elected officials across the state to join in supporting divesting the $200 billion state Common Retirement Fund (Fund) from coal, oil and gas companies. The City of Syracuse does not currently invest in fossil fuel stocks, and announced its commitment to implement screens to ensure no future investment for the City’s internal funds in these energy sources of the past.
“The City of Syracuse is supporting the New York Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, and calling on other cities around the state to do the same,” said Joseph Driscoll, City of Syracuse Common Councilor. “This is the right thing to do economically, morally, and environmentally. In the interest of the long term viability of the communities we represent, we are supporting this bill, and calling on Comptroller Dinapoli to divest from fossil fuel companies in our state pension.”
The FFDA would require State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to responsibly divest from the largest 200 fossil fuel companies within five years, prioritizing low performing coal companies. Governor Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly called on DiNapoli to divest from fossil fuels, and recently directed state agencies and their $40 billion funds to move toward divestment.
Driscoll, Greene and all city councilors and most Syracuse government employees are members and future beneficiaries of the Fund which currently has more than $13 billion invested in fossil fuel companies. The FFDA has 28 Senate and 38 Assembly sponsors, gaining support from Senator Michael Gianaris support last week. The Common Council of Syracuse and Mayor Ben Walsh both submitted letters of support for the FFDA last week.
Commenting as a co-sponsor and supporter of the Act, local Senator Rachel May, said: “It is critically important for New York to be a leader in combating climate change. The Fossil Fuel Divestment Act is a common-sense choice. We must invest wisely and begin to shift our economy away from fossil fuels so that we can meet our targets locally and globally for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
Earlier this month, the State Decarbonization Panel released a long-awaited report recommending overhauled management of the Fund, including urgent climate risk assessment, essentially divestment by any other name. Testimonies from members of the Decarbonization Panel underscored that if Comptroller DiNapoli incorporated their recommendations, the Fund would not have any fossil fuel investments.
“Divesting our state pension fund from fossil fuels will protect workers, retirees, and taxpayers from the rapid loss of value that fossil fuel companies will suffer in the coming energy transition. It will also send a powerful message that it is no longer acceptable to invest in a business model that puts our entire planet at risk. I commend Councilman Driscoll and Councilman Greene for recognizing that the climate crisis is here, and both fiduciary and moral responsibility require the process of divestment to begin now,” said Senator Liz Krueger, lead sponsor of the FFDA.
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To date, over 1050 institutions representing more than $8.5 trillion in assets have committed to divest, including the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, New York City’s pension funds, the City of Denver, Colorado, and the country of Ireland.
“Fossil fuel companies have significantly underperformed the broader market over the last 10 years, losing the pension fund more than $20 billion. The comptroller’s argument that he is maintaining a stake in these underperforming companies as leverage for shareholder engagement holds no water. As a financial advisor that focuses entirely on socially responsible investing, we understand shareholder advocacy. You cannot proxy vote a fossil fuel company out of drilling for fossil fuels. It simply doesn’t work. Comptroller DiNapoli must divest,” said Katelyn Kriesel, Financial Advisor, Hansen’s Advisory Services; Board President, Reinvestment Alliance.
"Transitioning away from expensive, unhealthy, and inefficient energy sources goes hand in hand with transitioning TO affordable, efficient, renewable energy. We need to put our money toward the energy system we want to have, the one that we need to have if we are to maintain a livable planet,” said Andra Leimanis, Communications & Outreach Director with Alliance for a Green Economy.
“With Syracuse joining the call, there’s no denying the momentum for divestment of New York state’s pension fund. Remaining invested in coal, oil and gas companies makes no financial or moral sense. If Comptroller DiNapoli won’t act for New Yorkers, the legislature and the people will force him to. While our communities bear the destruction of climate destruction like Superstorm Sandy and flooding across the state, it’s more critical than ever that we use all the tools at our disposal to accelerate the just transition to a fossil free world,” Cata Romo, New Yorker and Campaigner with 350.org.
“The Town of DeWitt Supervisor Ed Michalenko and Town Board Member Kerin Rigney strongly support the use of Divestment as a means to switch our country's energy source to one that is sustainable. It is established that the use of fossil fuels is a major contributor to climate change and resulting weather-related disasters that are felt around the world. Divestment of the NYS pension funds are a powerful tool to change this course,” said DeWitt Supervisor Ed Michalenko and Board Member Kerin Rigney.
“In addition to Mayor Walsh and Councilors Driscoll and Greene, more than 220 local elected officials from across New York State have called on state officials to align New York's investments with its commitment to clean energy. To protect the communities we serve and the local government employees who depend on the pension fund, we must act quickly. It is inconsistent for the pension system to maintain a financial interest in companies invested heavily in practices that worsen climate change while New York State is committed to policies necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change,” said Gregory Young, Fulton County Supervisor and Coordinator for Elected Officials to Protect New York.
“We fully supports and commends Mayor Ben Walsh and the city of Syracuse, NY, in their support of the NY State Fossil Fuel Divestment Act. This legislation, sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, will legislate a timeline for divestment of the New York State Pension Fund from fossil fuel investment. Saratoga Unites commends the city of Syracuse, NY, and Hansen’s Advisory Services for their leadership in fiscal responsibility in the light of challenges of climate change,” said Saratoga Unites’ Environmental Action Committee.
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