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New York, New York: Another Divestment Win

By staff - Fossil Free California, January 25, 2021

Three of New York City’s five pension funds announced they are divesting a total of $4 billion from fossil fuels following a six year campaign led by a multiracial, multigenerational coalition. Pension funds for teachers, school administrators, and civil servants voted to divest from fossil fuels. Police and fire department pension funds have not yet voted to divest. Said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, “Divestment is a bold investment in our children and grandchildren, and our planet.” The divestment of the $239 billion NYC pension funds is the largest municipal pension fund divestment to date.

The New York City commitment joins last month’s pledge by NY State Comptroller Tom Di Napoli to divest the $226 billion state Common Retirement Fund from the riskiest fossil fuel companies, and fully decarbonize the portfolio by 2040, a decade earlier than the “net-zero by 2050” pledges made by other funds such as California’s CalPERS.

After a 2018 divestment commitment made by Mayor de Blasio and NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, a coalition of retirees, youth activists, and union representatives held countless meetings with city officials and staff, scoring interim successes on related projects such as stopping the Williams Pipeline, getting a ban on all new fossil fuel projects in NYC, and doubling NYC investments in climate solutions. Youth and elders from New York Communities for Change, People’s Climate Movement NY, DivestNY, 350NYC,, and a host of other organizations celebrated every success and focused on growing a stronger and stronger coalition. New York City coupled its 2018 commitment to divest with a string of lawsuits against Big Oil – see “Divest and Sue”.

“It is right and just that, in the midst of the deadly pandemic, our beloved NYC is choosing life over death and acting on its commitment to divest the pension funds from fossil fuel investments,” said Marilyn Vasta, for People’s Climate Movement NY. “For too long we have financially supported the polluters that harm us; it is time to make polluters pay as we invest in a just transition to renewable energy. Although it has taken almost a decade, from small living room meetings to a city-wide cry for divestment, the People’s Climate Movement-NY proudly stands today with Comptroller Stringer and Mayor de Blasio, and applaud them for taking this positive step towards a fossil free future.”

Divestment is a strong remedy for the social and environmental harms caused by continued fossil fuel use and investment, but the urgency of the climate crisis demands this kind of bold climate action. Divestment should be part of every engagement strategy, and it is the best tool for removing climate-related financial risk from a portfolio. 

New York State and New York City are showing us the way: now CalPERS, CalSTRS, and California’s 20 municipal pension funds need to follow suit. To catch a glimpse of some of the New York climate activists that made this victory possible, check out this video of our coalition panel called “Youth and Elders Unite for Climate-Safe Pensions” that aired during last summer’s “Earth Day Live”.

New York State’s $226 billion pension fund moves to divest from riskiest oil and gas companies

By Staff - Fossil Free, December 9, 2020

New York — Today, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced that the $226 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund) is moving to divest from the riskiest oil and gas companies by 2025 and decarbonize by 2040. 

New York’s announcement is the biggest leap forward worldwide on climate finance action in 2020, an otherwise bleak year for the planet. It creates the most comprehensive program of any large public fund worldwide to divest from fossil fuels, decarbonize across a massive portfolio, and put major financial pressure on public companies — from auto companies to utilities — to align their operations with the scale of climate action needed to stave off worldwide catastrophe.

The victory comes eight years after New Yorkers launched the #DivestNY campaign, days ahead of the December 12 fifth anniversary of the Paris climate accord signing, and sets the bar for climate finance action ahead of COP26 next year in Scotland.

Comptroller DiNapoli is taking a ground-breaking, systematic approach to reviewing and assessing each fossil fuel company sub-sector, with a process grounded in fiduciary responsibility. The results of the first review, targeting the coal sub-sector and completed earlier this year, resulted in divestment from 22 coal companies. Similar divestment action is anticipated from the current tar sands review, which is set to conclude next month. After the tar sands review, the Comptroller will review fracking companies,Oil majors, fossil fuel service companies, and oil and gas transportation and pipelines. All reviews and divestment actions will be completed by 2025.

Just like New York City’s 2018 announcement of a five-year plan to divest its massive pension funds from fossil fuels, today’s announcement by Comptroller DiNapoli will reverberate globally, boosting divestment and climate finance campaigns across the nation and around the world. The commitment to decarbonize the Fund by 2040 is ten years sooner than any other US pension fund. This plan also includes interim trajectory goals, rigorous reporting, staff hiring, and transparency. 

NYS-CRF historically has held over $12 billion in fossil fuels, including more than $1 billion invested in ExxonMobil alone. Divestment will ensure that the NYS fund will end such financing. 

To celebrate this victory and encourage funds across the country and around the world to take similar action, the multiracial, multi-generational #DivestNY coalition is hosting a virtual press conference and rally at 10amEST today, featuring youth activists, pensioners, financial experts, and academics, along with Bill McKibben, New York State Senator Liz Krueger, and Assemblymember Felix Ortiz. The legislators co-prime sponsored divestment legislation and pushed for such historic action.

The #DivestNY coalition, composed of 40+ groups, won this campaign through focused and diligent campaigning over many years. The campaign demand launched after Superstorm Sandy devastated the Northeast in 2012, costing nearly $70 billion in damages.

In the face of COVID-19, the coalition shifted into virtual campaigning and video conference advocacy and lobbying, escalating momentum toward this victory. In September, 1100+ Academics sent a letter to Comptroller DiNapoli urging him to divest from fossil fuels. To date, over 1300 institutions representing more than $14 trillion in assets have committed to some level of fossil fuel divestment.

Today’s announcement also builds momentum for activists and experts to convince the $120 billion New York State Teachers’ pension fund to divest. The #DivestNY coalition will continue to work alongside Comptroller DiNapoli, the expanding team at the Comptroller’s office working on climate finance, and public officials at all levels to ensure this commitment, its benchmarks, and a fossil free world become reality.

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