This divestment will address significant risks fossil fuel holdings pose to the environment and funds. On January 25, 2021, Mayor de Blasio, Comptroller Stringer, and trustees announced that they had voted to divest their portfolios from securities related to fossil fuel companies, in what is expected to be the largest divestment in the world.
The New York Employees’ Retirement System and New York Teachers’ Retirement System both voted to approve divestments on January 25, 2021. The New York City Board of Education Retirement System is also expected to begin a divestment vote soon. Hundreds of other institutions, governments, and entities have joined the City in this commitment. The City, partnered with C40 and London, is engaging with other cities to pursue fossil fuel divestment.
The original goal to divest away from fossil fuels was announced by trustees in January of 2018. In September of 2018, the Mayor and Comptroller announced a goal to double pension funds’ investments in climate solutions from one percent to two percent. These climate solutions include renewable energy, climate infrastructure, green real estate, and other investments in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.
A thorough assessment to prudently assess the portfolio’s exposure to fossil fuel stranded asset risk and industry risk and other climate change related risks was conducted prior to the announcement. These divestments come as a result of identified and demonstrated security risks to asset risk, financial risk, industry decline, and climate change. Risks in portfolios will continue to be evaluated to determine if any additional actions need to be taken.
The names of companies and the scope of the divestment will be released after all targeted securities are sold.
The participating New York City Pension Funds’ trustees are:
New York City Employees’ Retirement System: New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer; Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Representative, John Adler (Chair); New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams; Borough Presidents: Gale Brewer (Manhattan), Donovan Richards (Queens), Eric Adams (Brooklyn), James Oddo (Staten Island), and Ruben Diaz, Jr. (Bronx); Henry Garrido, Executive Director, District Council 37, AFSCME; Tony Utano, President Transport Workers Union Local 100; Gregory Floyd, President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 237; Teachers’ Retirement System: New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer; Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Appointee, John Adler; Chancellor’s Representative, Lindsey Oates, New York City Department of Education; Natalie Green Giles; and Debra Penny (Chair), Thomas Brown and David Kazansky, all of the United Federation of Teachers.
Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “Our first-in-the-nation divestment is literally putting money where our mouth is when it comes to climate change. Divestment is a bold investment in our children and grandchildren, and our planet. I applaud the trustees, advocates and experts for their hard work, and I look forward to seeing more cities around the world join this call for change.”
New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer stated, “New York City is leading the way forward because we know the future is on the side of clean energy – not big polluters. I’m proud of the trustees, advocates and investment experts who worked with us to ensure a fiscally prudent and environmentally responsible divestment process and a greener future for generations to come.”
Daniel Zarrilli, New York City’s Chief Climate Policy Advisor said, “Divesting from fossil fuels and investing in climate solutions will accelerate our economic recovery by creating good-paying jobs in clean energy, resilient infrastructure, and environmental justice.”
By: Patrick McNeill (Patrick is the CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2022.)