NYC Pension Funds Begin Historic Fossil Fuel Divestment

New Yorkers applaud as the NYC pension funds, led by Comptroller Stringer and Mayor de Blasio, begin to dump $4 billion invested in Exxon and other Oil & Gas corporations in a historic win for climate action

New York — Today, New York City’s largest pension funds voted to initiate full fossil fuel divestment, selling off an estimated $4 billion of holdings in fossil fuel corporations, such as ExxonMobil. New York City’s announcement fulfills its commitment to divest from fossil fuels. The city’s pension funds, valued at $239 billion are the largest municipal pension funds to divest globally.

“New York City has set a new bar for climate finance action. Today’s landmark action marks a bad day for Big Oil and a good day for the City’s pension systems and our planet. By taking billions out of the companies that own and profit off of fossil fuels, New York City is playing an enormous role in moving the financial industry towards a greener future,” said Bill McKibben, author and co-founder of 350.org.

New York City’s divestment commitment, made in 2018, inspired further action worldwide. It was followed by commitments from many other large funds, including the City of London, the Norwegian Sovereign Fund, and the New York State Common Retirement Fund. Today’s announcement confirms the City’s commitment to divest from fossil fuels within five years.

“My family lost everything to hurricane Sandy, a climate disaster. I am so happy now to see the pension funds dump billions of dollars of investments in the likes of Exxon. We worked hard to get to this moment. Our movement is rising!” said Rachel Rivera, a Sandy survivor and member of New York Communities for Change.

“Thanks to the Comptroller, Mayor, Trustees and eight years of grassroots activism, we are finally turning the tide against the inertia of business as usual and the funding of our own demise, giving concrete hope for a more sustainable future. May this move inspire other leaders to urgently follow suit,” said Lyna Hinkel, Founder, 350NYC.

Fossil fuel corporations are seen as an increasingly bad risk for portfolio managers and have underperformed financial markets for years.

“New York is a beacon of real climate leadership, as our City’s pension funds divest over $4 billion from climate criminals like ExxonMobil,” said Lindsay Meiman, 350.org Communications Manager and lifelong New Yorker. “We are re-engineering resilience, and if New York can do it, every single pension, university, bank, and insurer can cut ties with fossil fuels too.”

The pension fund trustees vote follows previous action to hire consultants to advise the city on divestment (2018 – 2020), prepare a divestment study (2020), and ongoing fiduciary review. 

“It is right and just that, in the midst of the deadly pandemic, our beloved NYC is choosing life over death and acting on its commitment to divest the pension funds from fossil fuel investments,” said Marilyn Vasta, for Peoples Climate Movement NY. “For too long we have financially supported the polluters that harm us; it is time to make polluters pay as we invest in a just transition to renewable energy. Although it has taken almost a decade, from small living room meetings to a city-wide cry for divestment, the Peoples Climate Movement-NY proudly stands today with Comptroller Stringer and Mayor de Blasio, and applaud them for taking this positive step towards a fossil free future.”

Divestment has exploded over the past decade from a symbolic action by small college endowments into a worldwide movement that has led to over $14 trillion worth of investment funds divesting or committing to divest from the oil, gas or coal industries. 

In order to fulfill the Paris climate agreement’s goals of staving off catastrophic climate change, all major finance of fossil fuels and deforestation must end by 2030. 

“Humanity is engaged in an epic battle to save the planet for future generations.The enemy is fossil fuels, and every step that works toward shutting them down is critical. Kudos to NYC for doing its part,” said Jordan Dale with the #DivestNY coalition and 350NJ-Rockland.

Members of the #DivestNY coalition, Comptroller Stringer, and pension fund trustees will view and join tomorrow’s daily briefing held by Mayor de Blasio to detail the announcement and celebrate. The briefing can be viewed live at www.nyc.gov. It is scheduled for 10 am EST.

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Contacts: Lindsay Meiman (347) 460-9082 lindsay@350.org 

Dan Morris (917) 952-8920 dan.morris@progressivecities.com

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