As the climate crisis worsens, cities, states, and even entire countries—along with churches, universities, and foundations including the Rockefellers Brothers Fund—have opted to divest from fossil fuels, removing their investment dollars from companies in industries like coal or oil. Now, New York state is the latest to take that step.
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced December 9 that the state will pull its $226 billion pension fund out of the “riskiest” oil and gas companies by 2025, and completely decarbonize the portfolio by 2040.
The state’s pension fund, officially called the Common Retirement Fund, holds and invests the pensions of more than a million state and local government employees and retirees. It’s the third largest pension fund in the U.S., and it’s held a lot of money in fossil fuels—historically, more than $12 billion, according to the #DivestNY coalition, which is made up of more than 40 environmental advocate groups . More than $1 billion of that has been invested in Exxon Mobil alone. The state will no longer finance fossil fuels through this fund.
This announcement builds on one from July 2020 when New York state announced it would divest its pension fund from 22 coal companies after an initial review of assets. Those investments were valued at nearly $90 million. Now, DiNapoli’s office will conduct a tar sands review, and then one of fracking companies, oil majors, fossil fuel service companies, and oil and gas transportation and pipelines. All of those divestments will be completed by 2025.
“Divestment is about rapidly ending our global addiction to Fossil Fuels in time to stabilize the climate and save a future for our children. It’s also about a few concerned citizens, working together to change hearts and minds within local governments and global markets to impact the climate systems of our planet,” said John Ingram, a climate activist with 350NYC, part of the global 350 environmental organization working to end the use of fossil fuels, in a statement.
The #DivestNY coalition has been campaigning for the state to divest from fossil fuels after the devastating Superstorm Sandy caused nearly $70 billion in damages in 2012. In 2018, New York City announced that it would divest its pension funds, which total $5 billion, from fossil fuel owners by 2022. In September 2020, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also signed on to a pledge to divest city assets from fossil fuel companies, along with 11 other mayors. That pledge stressed the importance of divesting from fossil fuels as part of a green COVID-19 recovery.