By Richard Brooks, Iconic Divestment Coordinator at 350.org
Everyone’s talking about fossil fuel companies and divestment in the Empire state these days.
First out of the gate was NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, the man who controls much of the direction and investments of the NYC $170 billion pensions funds. Finally admitting, albeit late, that the pension funds need to do more on aligning with a warming planet and investments affected by climate change, he announced the hiring of new investment managers that will be able to offer low-carbon investments to the funds. Though he’s not likely to admit it, clearly Stringer is feeling the pressure of the #DivestNY campaign, taking one small step closer to doing the morally and financially responsible thing: ending new investments in fossil fuel companies and divesting the pension funds fully from fossil fuels. This builds upon the coal divestment of two of the pension funds that the #DivestNY campaign forced the comptroller to undertake.
At the state level, the NY state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, continues to pursue the failed route of trying to engage fossil fuel companies, in particular the notorious ExxonMobil, to do better on climate change. Despite no change in the company’s approach, DiNapoli has signed onto yet another shareholder resolution urging the company to report on the business risks of a warming planet. This time around, he’s finally admitting publicly that ExxonMobil is a risky investment.
Next step for him and the $186 billion state pension fund should be to divest from Exxon (the state funds owns more than $1 billion of the company), freeze any new fossil fuel investments and begin to divest. Particularly as NY senate and assembly divestment bills continue to move forward – these would force Comptroller DiNapoli to act. We think it would be better for him and more importantly the state pension fund and our planet, if he acted now to divest, before those bills become law.
A new senate bill has been introduced that would force NY’s two state universities, State University of NY (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) and their association foundations to divest from fossil fuels.
And lastly, the iconic Riverside Church in NYC, which was literally built with Rockefeller oil money (they owned Standard Oil) announced that they intend to divest their $140 million endowment from fossil fuels. The Church has hosted the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, President Bill Clinton, the Dalai Lama and 350’s own Bill McKibben to address the congregation over the decades.
Thousands of NYers traveled to DC for the Peoples Climate March – and that energy is coming back to the state, as momentum builds to Global Divestment Mobilization 2017 (May 5-13) and a week of activities and actions from the Trump Tower in NYC (May 9!) to the Capitol in Albany.
Join us an event next week (check out events listed at divestny.org) as we get closer and closer to divesting NY.