350NYC is working to get NYC and NY State to divest their public pension funds from the fossil fuel industry. Read about Fossil Free NYC and the Campaign to Divest NYC. If you haven’t already, please sign the petition to NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer. Check out the Groups Endorsing a Fossil Free NYC
Read about Fossil Free New York State and the Campaign to Divest New York State’s Common Retiremenet Fund
These campaigns are part of the global movement to divest from fossil fuels. The process of engaging your organization in a conversation to support this movement is an important part of the ongoing education needed to transition to a clean, renewable fuel economy. If you would like a speaker from 350NYC to come to your group please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more info on Global Divestment Commitments and University, Faith, and Institution Divestment Campaigns check out GO FOSSIL FREE.org
DIVESTMENT – Frequently Asked Questions
What is divestment?
Divestment is the opposite of an investment — it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous. Fossil Fuel investments are a risk for investors and the planet -– that’s why we’re calling on institutions, such as unions and city pension funds- to divest from these companies.
There have been a handful of successful divestment campaigns in recent history, including Darfur, Tobacco, and others, but the largest and most impactful one came to a head around the issue of South African Apartheid. The South African divestment campaign helped break the back of the Apartheid government and usher in an era of democracy and equality.
What are we asking for, and who are we asking?
We want institutional leaders to immediately freeze any new investment 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. 200 publicly-traded companies hold the vast majority of listed coal, oil, and gas reserves. Those are the companies we’re asking our institutions to divest from.
Why divestment? Shouldn’t we just focus on stopping fossil fuel projects like offshore drilling, tar sands pipelines, coal power plants and hydrofracking wells?
Stopping fossil fuel infrastructure projects are important. Coal plants cause asthma and dump mercury into the air and water; fracking fluid can leak into groundwater and make people sick; pipelines can leak, and so on. But, we can’t stop global warming one pipeline well at a time. We need to loosen the grip that coal, oil, and gas companies have on our government and financial markets so that we have a chance of living on a planet that looks something like the one we live on now. It’s time to go right to the root of the problem – the fossil fuel companies themselves – and make sure they hear us in terms they understand, like their share price.
How can divesting the funds from a few institutions like universities & pensions make an impact?
Divestment isn’t primarily an economic strategy, but a moral and political one. Just like in the struggle for Civil Rights in the U.S. or the fight to end Apartheid in South Africa, the more we can make climate change a deeply moral issue, the more we will push society towards action. We need to make it clear that if it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s also wrong to profit from that wreckage.
At the same time, there are certain economic impacts. The top 500 or so university endowments hold nearly $400 billion. That’s a huge number. Add in the big state pension funds and church, synagogue, and mosque investments, and we’re well on our way to making ExxonMobil, Shell, and Peabody sweat.While sale of stock might not have an immediate impact on a fossil fuel company, especially one as gigantic as Exxon, what it does do is start to sow uncertainty about the viability of the fossil fuel industry’s business model.
Here’s why: in order to keep warming below 2°C, a target that the United States and nearly every other country on Earth has agreed to, the International Energy Agency calculates that the fossil fuel industry will need to leave approximately 80% of their reserves of coal, oil, and gas unburned. Those reserves may be below ground physically, but they’re already above ground economically and factored into the share price of every fossil fuel company. Globally, the value of those reserves is around $20 trillion, money that will have to be written off when governments finally decide to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. By divesting from fossil fuels, universities not only build the case for government action, they also start this important discussion about the fossil fuel industry’s “stranded assets.”
On the flip side of that coin, divestment also starts to build momentum for moving money into clean energy, community development, and other more sustainable investments. Let’s say our campaign succeeds in moving just 1% of the $400 billion in university endowments towards sustainable alternatives. That’s roughly $4 billion worth of new investments in things like solar bonds, revolving loan funds, and advanced energy industries. More importantly, when other investors, be they individuals or pension funds, see the nation’s leading universities begin to move in this direction, they’re more likely to follow suit. University endowments won’t be enough to fuel a clean energy revolution – that’s why we’re still pushing for government action – but they build the case for investment in important ways.
Which companies are the worst offenders?
We’re all complicit in fossil fuel consumption, and we should do all that we can to reduce our own use, but the real culprits — the ones who are rigging the system — are the fossil fuel companies. The largest 200 coal, oil, and gas companies own reserves that represent a significant percentage of the entire global market (1). These companies, incidentally, are also the largest political contributors around the world — they’re the ones writing laws and getting billions in government handouts each year (2).
Divestment sounds complicated. Do I have to be an expert to start a divestment campaign?
Nope — none of us at 350.org are experts on financial markets, but we’ve talked to a lot of divestment experts and they’ve given us a few tips. It’s useful to have the phone number or email address from a local economist, broker, or financial analyst, but it’s not necessary. We have a whole crew of folks at 350.org Headquarters happy to answer your questions and help you along — you can reach us at email@example.com.
Can we still make a reasonable return without investing in Exxon or Peabody Coal?
While it’s true that fossil fuel companies are extremely profitable (In 2011, the top five oil companies made $137 billion in profit — that’s $375 million per day), they’re also very risky investments (1). Coal, oil, and gas companies’ business models rest on emitting five times more carbon into the atmosphere than civilization can handle, which makes their share price five times higher than it should be in reality. In addition, disasters like Exxon Valdez, the BP oil spill, along with massive fluctuations in supply and demand of coal, oil, and gas, make energy markets particularly volatile, and therefore risky.
Report after report has shown that investing in clean energy, efficiency, and other sustainable technologies can be even more profitable than fossil fuels (2). It’s a growing market, with over $260 billion invested globally in 2011, and a safe place for your institution to invest (3).
There are also a number of ways to re-invest locally that help build your community and stimulate good jobs. Projects like energy efficiency and rooftop solar have high up-front and labor costs, but save institutions money in the long run because electricity, heating, and other costs are reduced significantly.
How do I get involved?
350NYC holds a city divestment working group meeting every 3rd Wednesday of the month at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 W 64th St. NY, NY 10023 Room #508. For more info email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep it in the ground! Just how much exactly?
Pretty much every government on the planet committed in Paris last year to hold global temperature rise ‘well below 2 °C’, aiming for 1.5 °C. We already know that there is a massive gap between these goals and governments’ actual plans for action. But what would need to happen to meet these goals and avoid tipping us into runaway climate change?
Carbon we can still emit to limit global warming to 1.5 °C: 200 GT CO2 but there is some uncertainty if even that is too much.
Scenarios for how we can meet the 1.5 °C target leave us with as little as 200 gigatonnes of CO2 (IPCC), and maybe less, to release into the atmosphere as of 2016. We’re currently emitting around 40 GtCO2 per year (fossil fuels plus land use change).
Scientist no longer talk about keeping warming below 1.5 °C. They talk about returning warming to below 1.5 °C. All 1.5 °C scenarios involve an ‘overshoot’ to up to 1.7 °C before cooling back down again.
This ‘drawdown’ is supposed to be achieved, in part, by carbon capture and storage, also known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). CCS is currently neither readily available nor economically viable. Even if CCS technology was deployed under a best-case scenario (nearly 3,800 CCS projects running by 2050), it would only start taking out emissions after 2030 and extend the carbon budget by about 125 Gt only (source: Carbon Tracker, Unburnable carbon 2013).
In other words, as of now we’ve just about run out of our carbon budget left for even a 50% chance of meeting the 1.5 °C target. From now on, we would have to draw down every tonne of carbon we emit.
Carbon budget left to limit global temperature rise to 2 °C: 470 GtCO2
Even for any sort of chance to meet the 2 °C target, emissions need to peak now and decline precipitously. For a chance of at least 66%, we can emit no more than 470 GtCO2 from 2015 onwards (source: Nature: Differences between carbon budget estimates unravelled). This is the lowest number in a range of several budget scenarios that goes up to 1020 Gt, and is accounting for emissions of greenhouse gases other than CO2 such as methane.
If you’re wondering what this means, in practice, it certainly means no new fossil anything. No new fossil fuel power plants, no new extraction projects, no new pipelines, no new drilling permits, no new fossil fuel financing. It also means massive fossil fuel production decreases.
Fossil fuel companies reserves: somewhere between 2,734 and 5,385 GtCO2
Regardless of any of this, fossil fuel companies are still looking for more and more coal, oil and gas to burn.
Carbon reserves are difficult to pin down. They are self-reported by the industries and are subject to economic feasibility — meaning significant reserves could fall out of the ‘proven reserves’ category when they are expensive to extract and oil prices drop, for example. Based on calculations from the IPCC (Assessment report 5 – working group 3, page 525), the carbon reserves fossil fuel companies currently report, add up to somewhere between 2,734 and 5,385 GtCO2 – way, way more than we can ever burn.
When we did the math back in 2012, we found that 80% of fossil fuel reserves need to be kept underground. At this point, 80% might actually be inadequate given the fast dwindling carbon budget and the growing fossil fuel reserves.
So now what?
The various figures and scenarios above are helpful to get an understanding of the scientific realities we’re facing, but they are merely points of reference rather than distinct markers.
Climate chaos has landed long ago for many people in different parts of the world and global temperature rise of 1.5 °C will mean even more destruction than we’re already seeing.
It’s the impacts of climate change we’re witnessing today that mandate urgent action now. This is not an issue that we can leave for the ‘second half of the century’, 2030 or even 2020. We simply need to keep fossil fuels in the ground as much as possible, starting now. Our actions today will determine how much carbon we emit and how bad climate change is going to get.
New York State Divestment Campaign
Find your State Senator Here
Find your State Assembly Member Here
On Monday, April 11th, 2016 the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act S5873 sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger was voted out of the Senate Civil Service and Pension Committee. We want the Assembly to do the same and bring the bill up for a vote in the Governmental Employees Committee. If you have any connections to or are a constituent of any of the following committee members, please call them today and urge them to vote yes to pass the bill out of committee.
Governmental Employees Members
Senate Civil Service and Pension Committee Members passed the bill and sent it to the Finance Committee. Call to thank them and ask them to cosponsor the bill!
|District||Senate Members||Party||Location||Contact info/email||phone number||committee||Endorsed|
|10||James Sanders, Jr.||Democratic||Queensemail@example.com||5184553531||civil|
|15||Joseph Addabbo, Jr.||Democratic||Queensfirstname.lastname@example.org||5184452322||civil||divest|
|22||Martin J. Golden||Republican||Brooklynemail@example.com||5184552730||civil|
|23||Diane Savino||Dem, IDC||Brooklyn, Stat Islfirstname.lastname@example.org||5184552437||civil|
|24||Andrew J. Lanza||Republican||Staten Islandemail@example.com||5184553215||civil|
|62||Robert Ortt||Republican||Monroe, Niagara, Orleansfirstname.lastname@example.org||5184552024||civil|
|7||Jack M. Martins||Republican||Nassauemail@example.com||5184553265||civil|
|48||Patty Ritchie||Republican||Jefferson, Oswego, Saint Lawrencefirstname.lastname@example.org||5184553438||civil,|
Climate Change Lobby Day – Wednesday, 5/8/2017
The 100% Renewable NY campaign and the Fossil Free state divestment campaign will hold a Climate Change Lobby Day on Wednesday, April 26th in Albany. We will have a briefing from 9:30 to 11 AM in room 104A of the State Legislative Office Building. We will have legislative visits from 11:15 n to 4 PM. The key bills will be 100% clean energy by 2030 (A7497 / S5527) and divestment in the Senate and in the Assembly.(A.3712 / S.4596) but other climate change bills can be brought up as well, such as pushing for offshore wind and a state carbon tax. The campaign also will call a halt to all fossil fuel projects, including natural gas.
Organizations: Endorse the Letter in Support of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act (S5873/A8011) sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Felix Ortiz
Endorse the proposed New York City Council resolution
350.org is building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. Their online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by thousands of volunteer organizers, like 350NYC, in over 188 countries.
350 means climate safety. To preserve our planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 392 parts per million to below 350 ppm. But 350 is more than a number—it’s a symbol of where we need to head as a planet.
350NYC, founded in 2010, is a local volunteer-led group affiliated with 350.org. It has been involved with projects such as pulling together a thousands-strong Moving Planet rally at the UN in 2011 pushing for global progress on clean energy, the Don’t Frack NY rally in Albany, and coordinated hundreds to bus to Washington DC for the recent Forward on Climate rally on the National Mall.
The Climate Math
We can only burn 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their coal, oil and gas reserves, five times the safe amount. These companies must keep 80% of their fossil fuels underground.
Making New York City’s Investments Fossil Free
Of all the institutions that ought to be looking out for the public good, surely our local and state governments are foremost among them. They have a responsibility to divest from an industry that’s destroying our future, and reinvest in solutions to climate change. Even as extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy threaten to overwhelm local budgets, federal inaction to solve this crisis is all but stalled. We have the solutions, but we won’t see any political progress on the issue until we can weaken the power of the fossil fuel industry.
The bottom line is this: divestment is the only moral choice for governments that care about their citizens. Solving the climate crisis is the only practical choice for governments that care about their solvency.
What are we asking for?
200 publicly held companies own the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves underground their stock prices and business plans depend on digging up and burning these reserves, which would lead to a 6-12 degree, or more, warmer future. It may not sound like a lot, but a global 6-12 degree rise in average temperate would make most of the planet uninhabitable.
If it’s wrong for these companies to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage. We believe that educational and religious institutions, city and state governments, and other institutions that serve the public good should divest from fossil fuels. We want New York City to immediately freeze any new investment 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.
The NYC Pension Funds
The total NYC Pension Fund assets under management as of 2012 is $127,458,000,000 and includes the city’s cash balances, the Board of Education Retirement System (BERS), Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS), Fire Department Pension Fund (Fire), Police Pension Fund (Police), and Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) The Comptroller is the custodian and investment advisor to the Boards of the five Pension Funds, and therefore can exert powerful influence over the Boards on responsible investment issues.
For example, former Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn recently wrote in a public letter: “I have directed the City’s Finance Director, Glen Lee, that the City will not invest cash balances in fossil fuel companies in the future…. I have written to our pension system governing board to request that they refrain from investing in fossil fuel companies in the future, and begin exploring options for moving existing investments from fossil fuel companies. I will work with the City Council, City staff and the pension board on pursuing divestment in that portfolio.”
The Financial Risks of Investing in Fossil Fuels
Stranded Assets: There are a few ways that coal, oil and gas reserves could become “stranded assets” basically, assets that have lost their value. The first way is if we limit global warming to 2 degrees through government regulation and cheap and abundant clean energy. If global warming is limited to 2 degrees, then this essentially means roughly 80% of fossil fuels have to stay in the ground, devaluing the coal, oil and gas reserves that these 200 companies have on the books.
On the other hand if there is no limit to how much fossil fuel we burn unabated and we head towards 6 degrees of warming, then vulnerable sectors will be affected. Agriculture, infrastructure, property and insurance sectors will suffer across asset classes. Hurricane Sandy caused $65 billion in damages alone, and wasn’t limited to the fossil fuel sector. 21st Century stranded assets could result due to extreme weather, crop production yields declining, acidifying oceans, health concerns and many other climate related drivers.
Using the NYC comptroller’s clout, shareholders can and have moved companies to adopt more environmentally responsible practices. The comptroller should continue to lead shareholder advocacy campaigns with companies in a wide range of sectors 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. Investors might persuade a coal company to put more protective linings in the land pits where it stores coal ash, but there is little rationale for investors to ask a company to stop pursuing the very activity that generates its revenues. So while shareholder advocacy remains an excellent vehicle for improving corporate sustainability in many areas, it is less effective as a tool for changing the overall orientation of industries whose business models depend on producing fossil fuels.
Being a fiduciary responsible for investing other peoples’ money means that you have a say in how investment risk is measured and recommendations implemented. There is significant latitude in the laws governing fiduciaries to encompass fossil fuel divestment. Adam Kanzer, managing director and general counsel of Domini Social Investments recently wrote: “First and foremost, fiduciaries must be dedicated to their beneficiaries’ financial goals. This requires a deep understanding of risk and opportunity, including those relating to “social issues” that affect consumer demand and the broader economy, or impose legal risks and operational costs (e.g., cleanup costs). The debate has moved on from the artificial, bifurcated view of reality that views the investment portfolio in isolation from the real world. A modern fiduciary must understand how the corporation affects the health of the systems upon which it depends for its long-term survival.”
While we do not require that the city reinvest in specific areas, New York City could benefit from reinvesting funds into new building projects, energy efficiency, public transportation and other green infrastructure projects, all of which often have better returns than fossil fuel stocks and bonds.
For references and more information visit 350.org’s divestment campaign.