The Fossil Fuel Divestment Act has been reintroduced this session! The new bill number is S.4596 in the Senate and A.3712 in the Assembly.
Demand an end to fossil fuel investments!
Assembly Switchboard (518 455-4100) and State Senate (518 455-2800).
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MEMO – Divest the State’s Public Pension Funds from Fossil Fuels Companies
A3712 (Ortiz) / S4596(Krueger)
The State pension fund should not be invested in companies that contribute to catastrophic climate change that has already inflicted tens of billions of dollars’ worth of damage in NYS, starting with Hurricane Sandy.
According to NYS OSC, the NYS Common Retirement Fund, with an estimated value of $160 billion, with more than $5.12 billion invested in the top 200 Carbon Underground fossil fuel corporations, including a billion dollars in Exxon. These publiclyheld companies own the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves underground their stock prices and business plans depend on digging up and burning these reserves.
The international scientific consensus is that we have to keep 80% of the existing fossil fuels in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change. Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their coal, oil and gas reserves, five times the safe amount. If it’s wrong for these companies to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.
The legislative should immediately freeze any new investment by public pension plans in fossil fuel companies, and divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years. This legislation would divest from coal within one year – something California and NYC had done.
Since 350 first proposed divesting the New York State Common Retirement Fund from fossil fuels 4 years ago, the decision not to divest has cost the fund at least $5.3 billion, according to a report from Corporate Knights, an investment research company. Other institutions worldwide have divested more from more than $5 billion in funds since the campaign started.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released multiple reports that find climate change is causing dangerous and costly disruption of human and natural systems including the melting of Arctic ice, a rise in ocean acidity, a rise in global mean surface temperatures, the retreat of glaciers, an increase in extreme storm events, drought, increasing threat to global water and food supplies, loss of biodiversity and increasing risk of civil hardship, warfare and refugee dislocation.
The State has a fiduciary responsibility to protect the retirement funds of public workers from risky investments. Investing in fossil fuels poses increasing financial risk and loss to the CRF, thus its beneficiaries
Falling coal and oil prices, along with renewables now becoming cheaper than burning greenhouse gases, highlights the financial case for rapid divestment. Investors are increasingly voicing their concerns about the fossil fuel industry’s long term financial viability, and opposing new capital expenditures aimed at discovering new coal, oil and gas reserves. Investors are concerned about the increasing action by governments’ worldwide to restrict and tax the use of fossil fuels.
The State Comptroller has resisted divestment, arguing for shareholder advocacy instead. Certainly, it is helpful to use the voting rights of pension to move companies to adopt more environmentally responsible practices. The comptroller should continue to lead shareholder advocacy campaigns to set greenhouse gas emission goals, improve energy efficiency across operations and source more renewable energy. But, there is an inherent conflict of interest for investors to advocate that coal, oil and gas companies stop the production of fossil fuels given that it is their core business. Shareholder advocacy is not an effective tool for changing the overall orientation of industries whose business models depend on producing fossil fuels.
There are now index funds available that exclude fossil fuels.
350NYC.org – Fossil Free NYS
Join New Yorkers Demanding An End To Fossil Fuel Investments
350NYC joins partners from around the state demanding divestment of the state’s $180 billion pension funds from fossil fuels. We demand a plan to divest the top 200 oil, gas and coal companies within a five-year time frame.
Wherever you live in the state, your voice is needed. Are you on the side of fossil fuel industry, or are you on the side of New Yorkers ready for a transition to the safe, clean, renewable energy economy of the future?
What can you do?
For over two years, 350 NYC and partner groups have been asking Comptroller DiNapoli to use his power as “sole trustee” to divest the State and Local Common Retirement Fund. Add your name to our petition.
In the meantime, Democrats in the legislature have introduced legislation that would require the state to divest. Taking the lead, Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Felix Ortiz introduced the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act (S5873/A8011) in June of 2015. Divestment supporters are mobilizing to obtain co-sponsors and put pressure on representatives ahead of the 2016 legislative session.
Have your representatives pledged support for the Divestment Act? A list of co-sponsors and contact information can be found at the end of this page.
Why Fossil Fuel Divestment?
By divesting, we reduce the political power of the fossil industry in our state and the world. When constituents support divestment, they force their elected officials to choose a side and take concrete action against the fossil fuel industry. The state’s investments must be aligned with a strategy to fight climate change. Divestment, reinvestment, and shutting down fossil fuel infrastructure are all part of the overall goal of the climate movement: Keep It In The Ground.
The global fossil fuel divestment movement is the fastest growing divestment movement ever, and as of December 2015 over $3.4 trillion in funds have committed to go fossil free. It is time for New York State, a leader in climate and finance, to commit to fossil fuel divestment within five years and a plan for re-investing in renewable infrastructure and other projects supporting strong, healthy communities.
Moving a portion of the money is not enough. It is imperative that New York State make a clear, strong commitment to eliminate fossil fuel investments.
CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES!
Current Sponsors Count:
Senate: Krueger, Hoylman, Hamilton, Parker, Perkins, Comrie, Dilan, Montgomery, Serrano
Assembly: Ortiz, Mosley, Fahy, Simon, Thiele
Please contact your state representatives to ask them to co-sponsor the bill and to pledge their support (S5873/A8011 A). It is time for New York State to break its ties with the fossil fuel industry and commit fully to a fossil free future.
We want to hear from you! Get in touch with 350NYC’s state divestment team by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask how you can stay connected or mobilize support in your district.
NEW: Press Release, Dec 4, 2015.
Climate activists call on State to Fully Divest Pension Fund From Fossil Fuels.
Groups say that Comptroller DiNapoli’s commitment to increase sustainable investment is a good first step, but the state needs to divest its pension funds from fossil fuels.
Today in Paris, during the United Nations Climate Change Conference, New York State Comptroller DiNapoli announced a new sustainable investment strategy for the New York Common Investment Retirement Fund. The central piece of DiNapoli’s strategy is the creation of a $2 billion low carbon index fund. DiNapoli projects that this index will reduce the emissions profile of this sum by up to 70 percent. Much of the reduction is expected to come from ending investments in coal. This $2 billion index will join an existing program to invest in various green initiatives, which has $3 billion in total, bringing New York State’s sustainable investment profile to $5 billion.
Climate change activists around the state point out that this largely maintains the state’s present investment in fossil fuel companies. They say the state needs to go much further in divesting its pension funds from fossil fuels.
“Shifting some funds to low-carbon investments is not enough. With the world watching COP21 to see if we will change course of history, there will be no true solutions to climate change while world governments and institutions continue to invest in the fossil fuel industry. It is time for the State of New York to join the global divestment movement and commit to removing all investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies. Investors representing $3.4 trillion in funds have already made this commitment and New York State is lagging behind responsible investors around the world,” said Amy Miller, a member of 350 Brooklyn who is in now in Paris for the climate talks.
Steve Knight, a fellow at Greenfaith and a leader of Fossil Free New York said, “This action only accounts for approximately 2.8 percent of the state’s investment portfolio. Even low carbon funds continue to retain some exposure to fossil fuel companies, so it’s difficult to see how this constitutes a long term solution to the financial risks associated with climate change.”
Activists argue that exposure to the fossil fuel sector constitutes a systemic risk for the New York Common Investment Retirement Fund. “Fossil fuel investments are already too risky – California pension funds lost some $5 Billion on fossil investments according to recent reports. As a recent NY State retiree, I consider it the Comptroller’s fiduciary duty to divest from all fossil fuel stocks in an orderly way, and shift the investments to the clean energy growth industries: solar, wind, energy efficiency and storage,” said Mark Schaeffer of Capital Region 350 Climate Action