New York City’s pension funds achieve first in the nation pension fund divestment from fossil fuel reserve owners - one of the largest fossil fuel divestments in the world
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, and trustees of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS) and the New York City Board of Education Retirement System (BERS) announced the successful divestment of securities related to fossil fuel companies, bringing the total divestment across all funds to an estimated $3 billion. The divestment, one of the largest in the world, will address the significant financial and environmental risks that these fossil fuel holdings pose to the funds and to our planet. The announcement by the Mayor, Comptroller, and Trustees follows an extensive and thorough fiduciary process to prudently assess the portfolio’s exposure to fossil fuel stranded asset risk and industry decline and other financial risks stemming from climate change.
“New York City is fighting for a greener future by leading the transition away from the fuels of the past. Today’s achievement shows the nation and the world that bold action is not only needed to protect future generations, it is also smart fiscal policy,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This $3 billion divestment, along with our billions in investments in climate solutions, is accelerating our transition to a green and just economy and advancing a climate-friendly future for generations to come. I thank the trustees for their commitment to the environment and our retirees.”
“Today is a major victory for our planet, our children, and our pensioners,” said Comptroller Stringer. “The successful divestment of $3 billion out of fossil fuels is proof-positive that environmental and fiscal responsibility go hand in hand. New York City is leading the way toward a clean, green and sustainable economy, and the impacts of the actions we are announcing today will be felt for generations to come. Today is made possible by so many people—the trustees whose leadership and steadfast commitment to our pensioners’ retirement security kept this process on track, investment experts who made sure that every step of this process was thoughtful and fiduciarily sound, to advocates who sounded the alarm about the growing financial and environmental risks posed by climate change. Thank you for standing up for a cleaner, greener, brighter future.”
In January 2018, the trustees announced a goal to divest from fossil fuel reserve owners within five years, consistent with fiduciary duty; thereby, making New York City the first major city in the nation to commit to divesting major public pension funds from fossil fuel reserve companies. The Systems retained independent investment consultants who conducted investment analyses showing the risks posed by fossil fuel companies and the prudent nature of the divestment actions adopted by the Boards.
The New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS) and the New York City Board of Education Retirement System (BERS) have completed their process of divesting approximately $1.8 billion and $100 million in securities, respectively. The New York City Teachers’ Retirement System’s (TRS) divestment is underway with over $1 billion divested to date, and is expected to be complete by Q1 2022 with approximately $1 billion remaining. Securities were identified based on demonstrated risk from fossil fuel reserves and business activity, and the trustees will continue to evaluate risk in their portfolios to determine additional actions as warranted. The list of combined divested securities from the NYCERS and BERS portfolios can be accessed here. TRS utilized a different investment consultant and employed different criteria to identify a different overall list of securities to divest than NYCERS and BERS. The names of TRS’ divested securities will be released upon completion of its divestment.
Since the initial announcement, hundreds of other institutions, governments, and entities have joined this commitment. The City also partnered with C40 and London to engage other cities to promote fossil fuel divestment.
The fossil fuel divestment builds upon the funds’ recent actions to address the risks and opportunities presented by a global transition to a low carbon economy. In October 2021, Mayor de Blasio, Comptroller Stringer and trustees announced the funds adopted a commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions in their investment portfolios by 2040. This includes a goal to double investments in climate change solutions, such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and green real estate, to over $8 billion by 2025 and achieve a total of over $37 billion in climate solutions investments by 2035 across the three funds. The goal and plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2040, which were proposed jointly by the Mayor and Comptroller, addresses the vast financial, environmental and social risks that climate change poses to the funds and planet, will further align the funds’ investments with the accelerating transition towards a low carbon economy, and help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent the most devastating impacts of climate change. New York City is among the first cities in the nation to commit to a net zero emissions goal in their public pension funds, and is the first city in the nation to set an ambition of reaching net zero emissions by as early as 2040.
"From the destruction inflicted on our coastal communities during Superstorm Sandy to the unprecedented flooding of our inland neighborhoods during Hurricane Ida, no borough has felt the severe sting of climate change like Queens. By successfully divesting billions of dollars from fossil fuel-related securities that directly contribute to a warming planet, New York City is once again claiming its place at the forefront of the global green revolution," said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. "Divesting from fossil fuel is itself a direct investment in the future health and well-being of our families, ensuring our children have a fighting chance against the perils of climate change."
"We’d like to thank Comptroller Stringer, for his years of public service and his leadership in protecting our pensions and our planet by divesting from fossil fuel investments. Thank you for joining the fight to reduce the money flowing to the world’s most dangerous polluters," said Dorian Fulvio, 350NYC Steering Committee member.
"Once again, New York City is a beacon of progressive climate action,” said Richard Brooks, Stand.earth Climate Finance Program Director. “This ahead-of-schedule and unprecedentedly transparent completion of one of the biggest fossil fuel divestments translates words and commitment into real action. Every pension fund and investor needs to pay attention: if divestment can be completed in New York, it can and should happen everywhere."
The participating New York City Pension Funds’ trustees are:
New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS): Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Representative, John Adler (Chair); New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams; Borough Presidents: Gale Brewer (Manhattan), Donovan Richards (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): 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 Meisha Porter; Mayoral: Isaac Carmignani, Natalie Green Giles, Vanessa Leung, Gary Linnen, Lori Podvesker, Eric C. Henry, Kathy Park Price; Thomas Sheppard (CEC); Michael Kraft (Manhattan BP), Deborah Dillingham (Queens BP), April Chapman (Brooklyn BP), Geneal Chacon (Bronx BP) and Jaclyn Tacoronte (Staten Island BP); and employee members John Maderich of the IUOE Local 891 and Donald Nesbit of District Council 37, Local 372.