January 26, 2017

Retired teachers urge pension to divest from fossil fuels

As part of #DivestNY, teachers and fifth grader urge TRSNYC to divest from all fossil fuels

Livestream available here: https://www.trsnyc.org/ASPENMemberPro/Account/RetirementBWebCasts

New York, NY — Less than a week after over 400,000 people took to the streets of New York City in one of the largest Women’s Marches of the day, five retired teachers along with a fifth grade student testified at the Teachers’ Retirement System of New York City meeting, urging trustees to divest from coal, oil and gas. Today’s testimonies are part of an ongoing campaign calling on Comptroller Scott Stringer to step into his leadership and divest from fossil fuels.

With the Trump administration denying the reality of climate change and attempting to revive fossil fuel projects like the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, it is even more imperative that city and state officials take leadership.

“If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage,” said Mary Hemings, a resident of the Bronx and TRS member who worked as a teacher for 25 years. “With Trump’s corrupt cabinet intent on regressing on all the progress we’ve made on climate, it’s up to our state and local institutions to take bold action now. The pension fund has a fiduciary responsibility to protect my retirement funds from risky investments like fossil fuels.”

A February 2016 report found the Teacher’s Retirement System lost approximately $135 million from its fossil fuel holdings in one year alone. The Teachers’ pension fund has already taken steps to review coal divestment, a move recognized by testifiers, but seen as far too incremental for what the climate crisis requires.

“I want to be an inventor when I grow up and fix this mayhem,” said Ajani Stella, a fifth grade student from PS 41 and native New Yorker who testified at today’s meeting. “97 percent of scientists believe in human-caused climate change. We need to act. The only path is to change our path.”

What started as a campaign on college campuses is now a mainstream global movement. To date, over 600 institutions from every sector of society across 76 countries, representing more than $5.2 in assets, have committed to some level of divestment. Just today, the Irish Parliament voted in support of historic divestment legislation. Notable divestment motions in the US include New York’s American Museum of Natural History, California’s CalPERS and CalSTRS, Washington DC’s largest pension fund, and Amalgamated Bank.

“I have invested my life in the future of the next generations, but that very future is at stake as long as our institutions invest in the companies perpetuating climate change,” said Monica Weiss, a TRS member, resident of Jamaica, Queens, and steering committee member with 350NYC. “Fossil fuel companies are failing and flailing. Our pension funds must divest from fossil fuels and invest in the renewable energy sources of the future.”

The need to cut ties with fossil fuels has increased since investigative reports revealed Exxon knew everything there was to know about climate change as far back as the 1970s, but chose to bury the truth and sow deception among the public. New York’s own attorney general Eric Schneiderman is currently investigating Exxon’s decades-long climate cover-up. Despite this, Exxon remains the third largest holding of the Teacher’s Retirement System at a staggering $87 million, as well as nearly $47 million invested in Chevron.

“Investments in fossil fuel companies fund climate impacts like Superstorm Sandy,” said Marcia Annenberg, a retired middle school art teacher of 24 years. “This very building, the headquarters of my pension fund, was at the epicenter of the devastating impacts from Sandy. Over four years later, our communities are still bearing the cost of that devastating storm.”

Superstorm Sandy cost a whopping $65 billion in damages, the second-costliest storm US history behind Hurricane Katrina. To this day, New Yorkers are still recovering from 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, 2008’s Hurricane Ike, 2011’s Hurricane Irene, and more. These devastating storms will only get stronger and more frequent on the path of fossil fuel business-as-usual.

Just last week, the World Meteorological Organization confirmed that 2016 was the hottest year on record, surpassing previous records of 2015 and 2014. Extreme weather, including storms, floods and droughts, are impacting communities at a pace and magnitude far exceeding previous predictions, making it even more crucial that New York’s pension funds divest and take meaningful action on climate.


Contact: Lyna Hinkel, 350NYC, 350.orgnyc@gmail.com, +1 (646) 284-8987

Lindsay Meiman, 350.org, lindsay@350.org, +1 (347) 460-9082


For more information on #DivestNY, visit: divestny.org

To view the #DivestNY media pack, visit: https://docs.google.com/document/d/18vm1A6EKWKrDV9EjZhGGpQH050GNDrD8WGR7MS6Y5Gc/edit