New York is the home of big, international finance: JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, and more among Wall Street players rooted in the city.
So it was especially poignant when New York City announced its decision to divest its $215.5 billion pension funds from fossil fuels in early 2018. The city’s top officials stood together with several municipal unions to draw a line against the Exxons of the world, whose business causes climate chaos for our families, homes and communities.
The city’s funds are on track to divest in the committed time frame, developing and implementing a plan to sell off billions of dollars in coal, oil and gas stocks and investments, and moving money into real solutions like renewable energy.
Since the announcement two years ago, the climate movement has surged. Even Wall Street behemoths are feeling the heat: in December, Goldman Sachs announced it would stop investing in much of the coal industry and Arctic extraction, and last month, BlackRock, the world’s biggest investor in fossil fuels, announced coal divestment from funds controlling about $2 trillion in assets.
Global fossil fuel divestment is now a mainstream and financially responsible strategy, with over 1100 institutions representing more than $12 trillion in assets committing to divest. We are moving enough money to set off a domino effect of withdrawing the fossil fuels industry’s chokehold on our democracy and economy.
Even CNBC’s Mad Money Jim Cramer declared fossil fuels “in the death knell phase” because of pension fund divestment, and Goldman Sachs just downgraded ExxonMobil to “sell.” Smart money is dropping coal, oil, and gas; fossil fuels have been the worst-performing sector in financial markets over the past decade.
In Superstorm Sandy’s aftermath seven years ago, activists, investors, and officials launched the demand for New York State Controller Tom DiNapoli to divest from fossil fuels. Yet DiNapoli, with sole control of the $210 billion Common Retirement Fund, has left New York’s pension frozen in time in a rapidly warming world, choosing futile negotiations with ExxonMobil at the expense of the New Yorkers he represents.
That is, until last week, when DiNapoli finally, tentatively, announced plans to divest from two dozen coal companies failing to comply with climate action. This is welcome news, yet the severity of the climate crisis means that incremental change is essentially inaction.
Not only are DiNapoli’s fossil fuel investments in the likes of Williams (a company attempting to build a fracked gas pipeline under our harbor) responsible for harming New Yorkers through rising seas and record heat, his refusal to divest has also already cost the state’s funds $22 billion in missed returns.
Because of DiNapoli’s dangerous inertia, State Sen. Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz introduced strengthened legislation requiring the pension fund to fully divest. The bill is quickly gaining traction with new sponsors joining each day, yet is being held up by Democrat Andrew Gounardes, the chair of the pension committee, where the bill has been assigned.
Gounardes has supported legislation to tackle climate change, including for climate education in our schools. He must not stand in the way of the divestment bill.
Fossil fuel companies’ prospects are bleak. After all, their business of mining, drilling, fracking and distributing fossil gas, oil and coal jeopardizes our very survival.
Last September, over 600,000 of us marched in the youth-led climate strikes across the U.S., with over 7.6 million people around the world.ced to flee into the night as the storm collapsed the roof of their home in central Brooklyn, becoming homeless overnight.
As the crisis worsens, the political tide is turning. Officials must stop enabling the oil, gas and coal industry. They have the power to start betting on a livable future for all instead of fossil fuel billionaires. And we will hold to the demands of the climate decade until it happens.