A year ago today, New York’s climate movement scored a milestone victory: after years of pressure from climate activists, community organizations and frontline communities, New York City declared it would divest it’s $200 billion public pension funds from fossil fuels.
With the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer, and then-Public Advocate Letitia James, the City took a major step towards standing up to fossil fuel billionaires for the climate chaos they’ve caused. And our city’s historic climate commitments didn’t stop with divestment: New York is also taking five major oil companies to court for the climate damage they’ve caused – including the flooding and destruction from Superstorm Sandy.
Now, in 2019, our movement is more determined than ever to make New York a real leader on climate. Let’s look back on some of the highlights from 2018, and preview what’s to come in the new year.
Here are some of our New York climate highlights from 2018:
The Stop Williams Pipeline campaign heats up
The Williams pipeline is a proposed fracked gas pipeline that would run through New York Harbor from New Jersey to the Far Rockaways, some of the same communities most devastated by Superstorm Sandy. There’s no new demand for risky fracked gas — especially if the city is serious about its commitment to building out renewables and reducing demand for dirty fossil fuels — and construction of the pipeline would stir up dangerous industrial toxins from the seafloor of the harbor, endangering surrounding communities, local wildlife, and recreational beachgoers.
Community members have been hard at work to stop the construction of this risky gas pipeline. So far, over 4,500 people have signed a petition telling Gov. Cuomo to deny the pipeline’s permits. Add your name now and help stop the Williams pipeline.
Since our friends at the youth-led Sunrise Movement occupied Nancy Pelosi’s office in November, the Green New Deal has been on everyone’s lips from Anchorage to Austin. New York is no exception. In 2018, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Environmental Committee Chair Costa Constantinides introduced a bill to slash big building emissions 80% by 2050, while delivering green jobs and protecting renters at the same time. Right now, just 2% of NYC buildings account for 50% of the city’s entire carbon pollution.
People rising in the streets taking action
In September, hundreds of thousands people marched across the world for Rise for Climate. In New York City, 3000 people turned out in September 6 while 2000 more marched in a dozen actions across the state.
The march was more than a movement flexing our muscles. Rise for Climate delivered results: the day before the action, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer announced his opposition to the Williams pipeline. Just days later, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Comptroller announced $4 billion of the city’s pension funds would be invested into climate solutions.
Cuomo didn’t deliver on the demands from Rise NY, but that didn’t stop the Rise 10 from blocking his NYC office the day afterwards. You can read more about their story here.
Rise for Climate wasn’t the only march that rocked New York in 2018. On April 23, 2000 people descended on Albany to demand Cuomo walk the talk on climate and commit to a Fossil Free New York. 55 people were arrested in the largest climate action in Albany’s history Watch the video below to learn more:
#DivestNY sets its sights on the State Comptroller
At the start of 2018, Governor Cuomo called on NY State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to divest the state’s public pension fund from fossil fuels. One year later, DiNapoli has held a firm line in refusing to divest, opting instead for a strategy of “shareholder engagement” to get companies like Exxon to behave better. Surprise: it hasn’t worked.
In the meantime, DiNapoli’s former chief investment officer, one of divestment’s most outspoken opponents, left her job for a cushy $300,000 position at Williams—the company building the Williams fracked gas pipeline.
Activists have been hard at work building pressure on DiNapoli to see reason and #DivestNY. Expect to hear more in the year to come as the situation escalates.
State level corruption is just one more reason to oppose the Williams pipeline. If you didn’t sign the petition asking Cuomo to block its construction yet, do so below.
Exxon lawsuit filed in NY Superior Court
After a multi-year investigation, former state Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit against the oil and gas behemoth ExxonMobil, arguing that the company defrauded shareholders by not accounting for the costs of climate change. We stand by current Attorney General Letitia James in carrying this suit forward. It’s up to all of us to hold corporate polluters accountable for years of climate deception. You can read more about the lawsuit here.
Divestment moves forward in NYC and accelerates globally
After its divestment announcement a year ago, NYC has taken real steps to turn that commitment into action. They started a process to hire experts to devise a detailed multiyear divestment plan. NYC followed up by putting money where it counts, announcing $4 billion in investments in climate solutions.
Building on the momentum in NYC, a Divestment forum of global cities was announced in September joining the likes of NYC, London, Paris, Oslo, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and San Jose to work together to advance divestment from fossil fuels. As a movement, we closed the year by hitting and surpassing the 1000 divestment commitments mark, with now more than 1020 institutions with assets totalling nearly $8 trillion committed to ditch fossil fuels.
Our 2019 New Year’s Resolution is to escalate the fight for a Fossil Free New York and secure the bold action needed to confront the climate crisis.
This is what the New York climate justice movement is are fighting for in 2019:
- Passing #GreenNewDealNYC legislation in NYC to clean up dirty buildings
- Divesting the State Pension Fund from fossil fuels
- Stopping the Williams fracked gas pipeline and other fossil fuel projects across the state
- Accelerating the transition to a Fossil Free New York City
- Passing ambitious climate legislation in the NY State Assembly and Senate