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Is New York falling behind on fossil fuel divestment?

By: Beta Coronel

Friends, since the election we know it has been challenging to find hope. As we count down the days until the new administration takes hold, we live in fear that so much of what we have built together for climate justice will be actively threatened.

Trump plans to push through the Keystone XL pipeline, attempt to re-open coal plants and mines, and unleash a fracking free-for-all. Communities we love, and those under the greatest threat from climate and pollution impacts, will be left to fend for themselves, while those in power choose to ignore the blatant truths of climate change. So many of the fights we have already won will be brought back from the dead.

While we hold these gut-wrenching feelings close to our hearts, it’s important to celebrate the state of one aspect of the climate justice movement. Today the Divest-Invest Network unveiled the 2016 Arabella Report in New York City, an annual temperature check of the divestment movement: the success of the fossil fuel divestment movement has doubled, with commitments from over 680 institutions across 76 countries representing more than $5 trillion in assets under management. This report is an undeniable sign of the power of the divestment movement. Not only is our movement on the right side of justice and history, we also continue to grow.

And now, more than ever, we will take on the battles we thought were too big to win.

This means you, New York.

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New Yorkers across the state are already facing down the fossil fuel industry – fighting major pipelines and terminals, pushing ahead climate regulations and legislation. And also achieving major victories like the hard fought state-wide ban on fracking. While these battles are being fought, we are quite literally facing an immediate threat to our NY cities and towns, due to rising sea levels and increasing weather-related catastrophes. We saw this when Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy caused unparalleled destruction to communities across New York.

Yet as we stare down the next hurricane or drought, and blockade each new infrastructure project, our own City and State pension systems, the third and fourth largest in the United States, worth more than $350 billion, continue to invest billions in fossil fuels companies, including frackers, the backers of the Dakota Access Pipeline and deceitful ExxonMobil.

This is hypocrisy at its worst.

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Leaders in New York have long paved the way for progressive action in the Unites States, and have been recognized around the world for the role they hold in forwarding just policies and regulations. But our decision-makers can no longer claim to lead on tackling climate change while investing billions in the likes of Exxon. They cannot claim they stand with New Yorkers when their actions and investments say otherwise. Even now, our own state attorney general is investigating the company for fraud. Exxon is firing back by directly attacking environmental groups like 350.org.

As we’ve heard today, our movement is bigger and stronger than ever. As scared as we are about what is to come, we are ready to keep fighting for the truth written in our hearts and felt in our communities. Our success is undeniable and a just transition to renewables is unstoppable.

Our next stop is New York.

Our leaders must model true leadership like they have in the past, divest New York from dirty fossil fuel companies and reinvest in a sustainable economy that works for all New Yorkers.

Join us and take action now to #divestNY.