Mayor de Blasio And Others Take Major Next Step To Achieve Fossil Fuel Divestment

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Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, along with trustees of three of the City’s pension funds, announced today the next major step toward achieving a first-in-the-nation goal to divest New York City’s largest pension funds from fossil fuel companies.

The selection of advisers to evaluate options and recommend divestment actions has been completed and will inform the development of a comprehensive and prudent divestment strategy to preserve the retirement funds of City employees and address climate change risks, consistent with fiduciary duty. New York City is the first city in the nation to take this major and necessary step to address the financial and environmental risks of fossil fuel holdings to the funds and to our planet.

The Comptroller’s office also released a new Notice of Search (NOS) for City pension funds’ investment in climate solutions. The pension funds will select public markets investment managers to help double the City’s investments in climate solutions, investment in companies that generate revenue from climate mitigation, adaption and resiliency such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, green buildings and electric vehicle energy storage, which supports the City’s efforts to achieve the Paris Agreement.

“While the Trump Administration fails to address global warming as the crisis it is, New York City is taking action,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We are dedicated to delivering what we owe to our children and grandchildren, which is why we’re the first in the nation to take major steps to divest from fossil fuels and invest in climate solutions.”

“New York City is standing up for our people, our pensioners, and the only planet we have because the future is on the side of big ideas in clean energy–not big polluters,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “Climate change is the most pressing challenge of our time, and we need to meet our climate emergency with every tool at our disposal to protect our children and our children’s children. In accordance with our fiduciary duty, the Trustees are taking the next major step in our first-in-the-nation divestment goal and leading the charge toward a clean, green and sustainable economy.​ Our city workers and our future deserve nothing less.”

Divestment Contracts:

In January 2018, the trustees announced a goal to divest from fossil fuel reserve owners within five years. The contracts to advise on the divestment plan will be awarded to Meketa Investment Group for New York Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS), New York City Board of Education Retirement System (BERS) and New York City Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS). TRS will also contract with BlackRock Financial Management, Inc. These three funds, with total holdings of more than $155 billion, hold roughly $3 billion in the securities of fossil fuel reserve owners.  The pension funds’ move to divest from these companies is among one of the most significant divestment efforts in the country to date.

With the award of these contracts, the City pension funds are on track to have actionable plans to divest from fossil fuel reserve owners by late 2020.  The expectation is that the pension fund boards will be able to adopt a plan and begin execution in 2021.

Climate Solutions Investment Search:

The funds’ goal is to double investments in climate solutions such as wind, solar power, energy efficient buildings and more to over $4 billion by 2021. The search issued by the Comptroller’s office Bureau of Asset Management seeks to identify public market investments in companies and strategies engaged in climate change mitigation, adaptation and resiliency.

Toolkit and Divest/Invest Forum:

In addition to the progress mentioned above, the City is working to leverage our national and international partnerships to inspire other municipal leaders and governments to take similar actions, scale up their climate actions, and help to create a more inclusive economy for everyone. As such, New York City launched a toolkit in close partnership with the city of London and C40 Cities. This new guide was prepared as part of the C40 Divest/Invest Forum, a first-of-its-kind initiative that helps urban leaders make the leap to effective and efficient divestment and accelerate green investment. The Forum has fourteen participating cities to date, including the latest joiners Auckland, Melbourne and Stockholm.

From March 16-18, 2020, city leaders will come together in New York City to share their progress and experience in divesting from fossil fuel companies and increasing investment in climate solutions.

“Confronting our climate crisis requires bold action and leadership.  By divesting from fossil fuels and investing in climate solutions, New York City is demonstrating a Green New Deal to the world and protecting the retirements of the City workforce,” said Daniel Zarrilli, NYC’s Chief Climate Policy Advisor and OneNYC Director. “We encourage all investors to follow our lead so that we can end the age of fossil fuels and secure a livable future for the next generation. Thanks to the pension trustees for their continued leadership.”

Henry Garrido, DC37 Executive Director and NYCERS trustee said, “As NYCERS trustee and as Executive Director of District Council 37, New York City’s largest municipal employee union, I’m pleased to support the hiring of Meketa Investment Group as fossil fuel stocks divestiture consultant for NYCERS. Fossil fuel divestment must be responsible and thoughtful and the vast experience that Dr. Sarah Bernstein and her team at Meketa bring to this assignment helps ensure that it will be. Divestment of NYCERS’ investment portfolio away from fossil fuels is a necessary first step to transitioning to a renewable and sustainable future and there is no time to lose. I am proud to stand with Mayor de Blasio, Comptroller Stringer, and my fellow trustees on this historic occasion.”

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, “Climate change is a pressing issue, and divestment from fossil fuel companies is one tactic to combat it. Our goal with these studies is to find strategies that help address this critical worldwide problem while ensuring the health of our pension system and the safety of our members’ contributions.”

“With every passing month, the impacts of the climate crisis become more glaringly obvious and more dire. At the same time, the smart money is already reading the writing on the wall and getting out of fossil fuel investments. Nearly 1,200 institutional investors controlling over $12 trillion have chosen to divest worldwide. I commend Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Stringer for having the foresight to divest New York City’s pension funds to protect returns for their members and retirees, and for understanding that their fiduciary duty includes ensuring that workers have a livable planet to retire on,” said State Senator Liz Krueger “Planet Earth is experiencing a climate crisis. The actions we take now as a society will impact the quality of life for future generations. To protect our environment, our dependence on fossil fuels and investment in companies that produce and promote fossil fuels must end. To achieve this goal, New York City is now taking the necessary steps to divest from companies that harm our planet. While New York City moves forward, I’ll be working to require that the state employee pension fund divest monies from fossil fuel companies. Together, we can make New York a better place for everyone,” said Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz.

“The City has a responsibility to ensure a fully-funded pension that reflects the needs and values of the dedicated men and women that make up our workforce and the communities that they represent,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor. “As with past divestment programs relating to apartheid and gun retailer stock, this action is timely, relevant, and consistent with the City’s longstanding tradition of responsible investment, and we applaud its leadership in this effort.”

Bill McKibbben, author and co-founder of 350.org, said, “Some were skeptical that New York City would actually carry through with its promise to divest its pension funds–it’s inspiring to see they are on schedule, and also to see them figuring out how to put big money to work in the transition to renewables. These steps will make money for retirees, and increase the chances they have a planet to spend it on.”“To address the climate crisis we need the financial markets to act to support solutions and stop supporting carbon pollution.  New York City’s climate leadership is demonstrating that this is possible – and that saving the planet is not in conflict with investment returns.  In fact, divesting from fossil fuels and investing in climate solutions is what every investor should be doing,” said David Miller, North American Regional Director and Global Ambassador for Inclusive Climate Action, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. “C40 is proud to be standing with New York City and London as they lead the C40 Divest/Invest Forum.  Congratulations to Mayor de Blasio for his leadership.”

“Today’s announcement by Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Stringer is the latest action by NYC in recognition that pension funds must address climate change as a matter of portfolio risk,” said Mindy Lubber, CEO and President of the sustainability nonprofit organization Ceres. “Pension fiduciaries who invest for the long term must look for low-carbon investment opportunities in the transition to the net-zero emissions economy. NYC’s action to divest from fossil fuels by 2022 and double their investments in climate solutions are crucial steps to address climate change and limit financial risks to their portfolios.”

Comptroller Stringer serves as the investment advisor to, and custodian and a trustee of, the New York City Pension Funds.

In addition to Comptroller Stringer, the participating New York City Pension Funds’ trustees are:

New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS): 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), Sharon Lee (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 (TRS): 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.

Board of Education Retirement System (BERS): Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza; Mayoral: Isaac Carmignami, Natalie Green Giles, Vanessa Leung, Gary Linnen, Lori Podvesker, Shannon Waite, Miguelina Zorilla-Aristy; Michael Kraft (Manhattan BP), Deborah Dillingham (Queens BP), April Chapman (Brooklyn BP), Geneal Chacon (Bronx BP) and Peter Calandrella (Staten Island BP); and employee members John Maderich of the IUOE Local 891 and Donald Nesbit of District Council 37, Local 372.

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