October 15, 2016

NYC’s Largest Public Employee Union Explores Fossil Fuel Divestment

District Council 37 forum focuses on environmental justice and divestment from fossil fuels

New York, NY — Today, New York City’s largest public employee union, District Council 37, gathered for a forum to discuss environmental justice and fossil fuel divestment. Representing more than 121,000 active members and 50,000 retirees, DC 37 considers environmental justice a union issue, and today’s forum approached fossil fuel divestment as a strategy to achieve climate justice.

The forum featured prominent speakers from DC 37, local environmental groups such as 350NYC, representatives from the New York State Senate and the New York City Council, the Mayor’s Office of Pensions & Investments, the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis, and more.

Panels focused on current efforts to tackle climate change, ranging from local environmental initiatives to the global Paris climate agreement, as well as how divestment from fossil fuels can be a tool for climate justice and curbing the impacts of climate change. The speakers detailed a nationwide problem of pension systems under fiscal stress, and how climate investment risk compounds that stress. Speakers highlighted that divestment from fossil fuels is not only the just thing to do, but also could help protect the pension.

This comes just two days before 350.org and allied groups gear up to issue a new challenge to New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer to divest the City and State pension funds from all fossil fuels.


Henry Garrido DC 37 Executive Director said, “Climate change is real, it’s here, and we need to do all we can to minimize its impact. For working men and women, this means looking at every option before us to protect the environment for our children and future generations. This forum provides an opportunity to explore what our options are. We are focused on ways to discourage companies from burning fossil fuels and to encourage development of alternative energy sources.”

Ana Orozco, UPROSE Climate Justice Policy Programs Coordinator said, “We cannot allow fossil fuel companies to continue to divide the labor movement and the climate justice movement. To continue to be tied to the fossil fuel industry is suicide for the human race.”

Jeremy Sanders, President of Local 1501, DC 37 Climate Justice Committee Chair said,  “Unions must be involved in the battle against climate change, not only to assure the creation of good, union jobs, as we transition to a clean energy economy, but also to fight for environmental justice for our members and for low income communities and communities of color everywhere. The discussion to divest public pension funds from the fossil fuels contributing to global warming is an important part of this battle. We have the opportunity to help the transition to a clean energy economy, while maintaining profitable and healthy pension investments for our members and retirees.”

New York State Senator Liz Krueger said, “The moral imperative to divest from fossil fuels is crystal clear. But for public sector workers, whose pension funds are invested in some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers, there is also a pressing financial argument for divestment. The energy transition that is already beginning will lead to a massive devaluation of big coal, oil, and gas stocks, with future pensioners left holding the bag. It’s time for city and state pension funds to read the writing on the wall and get out of the fossil fuel business.”

John Adler, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Pensions & Investments and the Chief Pension Investment Advisor said, “As New York City continues to move toward renewables and away from fossil fuels, we are working to have our five pension funds develop a long-term strategy on all fossil fuel investments. We’ve set ambitious goals, including an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050, and we’re going to need every city asset helping us achieve them.”

Mark Dunlea, member of the steering committee of 350NYC said, “NYC is one of the most vulnerable cities in the world to climate change, as we unfortunately saw with Hurricane Sandy. We applaud DC37’s leadership in helping to educate city workers about this issue. And if NYC was to divest its pension funds, it would be an international signal that the era of fossil fuels is over.”