After years of public pressure, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer announces pension climate risk study
New York, NY — 350.org and fossil fuel divestment advocates are commending Comptroller Scott Stringer’s announcement that he is assessing the city’s five pension funds for climate risk as evidence of the movement’s growing impact, while pledging not to rest until New York City fully divests from coal, oil and gas. The study was originally intended to begin before the presidential election in October 2016.
“As Trump’s cabinet attacks our climate and communities, we need bold and immediate action to divest New York from fossil fuels,” said Betámia Coronel, 350.org US Reinvestment Coordinator and a native New Yorker. “In this moment, the world is watching New York. Today’s announcement wouldn’t have happened without public pressure and that’s exactly why we’ll be ramping up in the weeks to come. How many more Sandy’s will it take until New York stops funding climate disasters and invests in community driven solutions to the crisis?”
The initial campaign for New York to cut ties with fossil fuels launched on the heels of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. In recent months, a broad spectrum of New York society has ramped up calls for Comptroller Stringer and New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to divest from risky coal, oil and gas investments. Last week, five retired teachers and a fifth grade student testified at the Teachers Retirement System of New York City meeting urging divestment.
“New York’s pension funds must stop funding climate change,” said Lyna Hinkel with 350NYC. “People on the frontlines of climate impacts know firsthand the urgent need to divest from the companies destroying the planet. While 350NYC commends this decision to finally perform these necessary studies, we urge the trustees to take immediate action to stand up for climate justice and ensure a safe and livable future for New Yorkers.”
Comptrollers Stringer and DiNapoli have argued they cannot divest from fossil fuels because of fiduciary duty. Extensive research shows, however, that divestment does not increase portfolio risk, while holding onto fossil fuel stocks at a time of increasing volatility, and worries over a “carbon bubble,” could violate a fund manager’s fiduciary duty. Many funds that have divested from fossil fuels have outperformed the market since the campaign began in 2012.
Groups are shining a particularly harsh spotlight on ExxonMobil. As far back as the 1970s, Exxon knew about climate change but instead poured resources into sowing deception amongst the public. New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, are investigating the company’s climate cover-up. ExxonMobil is currently the world’s largest fracker, a dangerous gas extraction practice banned in New York State in June 2015 after nearly a decade of community organizing around health and climate impacts.
This comes as President Donald Trump stacks his cabinet with the fossil fuel industry itself, including recent former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as our next Secretary of State, and Big Oil stenographer Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator.
Major funds around the world, such as the Bank of England, have done thorough research around stranded assets and carbon risk to conclude that divestment is the way forward. To date, more than 600 institutions across 76 countries representing over $5 trillion in assets have committed to some level of divestment, doubling in size in just one year. Notable motions in New York to cut ties with fossil fuels include Amalgamated Bank, Cooperstown, NY, the New School, and the American Museum of Natural History.
2016 was the hottest year in recorded history, surpassing 2015 and 2014 before that, a record that New Yorkers across the City and State experienced firsthand. New Yorkers will ramp up pressure on Comptroller Stringer in the weeks and months to come. To stand up to Trump’s climate destruction and fight for climate justice, New Yorkers are also gearing up for the People’s Climate March on April 29, 2017.
“Community members deserve a seat at the table when it comes to helping the City determine the best ways to leverage its significant assets to help address the climate crisis and protect New Yorkers into the future,” said Coronel. “In these dark times, New York has the potential to be a true beacon of safety and sanctuary, but its investments in fossil fuels stand in the way of it being a true leader on climate.”
Rachel Rivera, a Sandy survivor and member of New York Communities for Change (NYCC) said:
“Trump just put Exxon’s CEO in charge of foreign policy and plans a climate denier to run the EPA. We can’t afford to take more hits like Superstorm Sandy, and the city’s pension funds shouldn’t fuel climate change.”
Mark Dunlea, a member of the 350NYC Steering committee, said:
“While it is good to see NYC moving forward on the issue of climate risk and the pension funds, we need city officials to speed up their game. The city’s pensions have already lost hundreds of millions in value by not divesting when groups first recommended this more than 3 years ago. And it took 15 months from when the Mayor first called for this study to hire someone to do it. Time’s a-wasting, especially with NYC being one of the vulnerable cities on the planet from rising sea levels.”
Vanessa Green, Director of DivestInvest Individual, said:
“With the federal government quickly becoming the opposite of what healthy people, communities and ecosystems need, state and local leaders must step up with and for each other. Analyzing New York City’s pension funds for climate risk is a step in the right direction, but without commitments to expedite results and exclude companies driving climate impacts, it lacks the integrity this moment calls for. We expect stall and play-both-sides tactics from businesses; we are asking for more from the stewards of our public good.”
Contact: Lindsay Meiman, [email protected], +1 (347) 460-9082