By: Betámia Coronel 

We ♥ New York.

That’s why, earlier today myself and 50 committed New Yorkers braved frigid December morning temperatures rallying outside the Manhattan Municipal Building representing pensioners, retirees, teachers, students, faith, and climate-impacted communities. We were there to send a message to the city comptroller and the several dozen trustees of the NY city pension funds, who were meeting inside: it’s far past time to #DivestNY from dirty fossil fuel companies.

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We gathered because the urgency to cut ties to all fossil fuels and act on climate has never been as urgent it is right now. 2016 is the hottest year on record, and New Yorkers continue to live with the memory of weather disasters like Superstorm Sandy and in fear that further destruction is imminent for our most vulnerable communities. New Yorkers know that our leaders have historically paved the way for progress, and with the incoming anti-climate Trump administration, action on climate at the local and state level is more important ever.

That’s why we asked the chair of the boards, Comptroller Scott Stringer, to allow us just 5 minutes to make a plea during the ‘open to the public’ portion of the meeting. We were met with a no.

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Stringer and other members of the board of trustees have repeatedly spoken to the need for climate action, but current investments of the $170 billion funds suggest otherwise. The New York City pension funds invest hundreds of millions in the likes of Exxon and Chevron, backers of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and in fracking companies. Through these investments, New York is funding the very climate impacts that threaten the lives and communities we must protect.

The hypocrisy needs to end now.

This past Monday, the third annual report on the state of the Global Divestment Movement was released, revealing that 688 institutions in 76 countries with assets over $5 trillion have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies.

It’s time for New York to join this group of leaders.

Most importantly, this report highlighted that pension funds have become one of the largest contributors to divestment commitments. This past year we witnessed major cities like Berlin, Paris, Stockholm and Washington DC commit to divest, proving that New York is dangerously behind the times.

Aside from the ethical need to divest, it’s becoming increasingly clear that pension board trustees have a legal and fiduciary responsibility to look closely at divestment for the financial interests of their pensioners. The reasons for inaction are disappearing.  

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We may not have had the opportunity to speak directly to the board, but the message we sent was loud and clear. New York: the time is now to step into your leadership to fully divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in our communities. Help us – send a message to the New York city comptroller now.