New York is taking a leap to divest from fossil fuels. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo together with New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer released separate proposals to divest the pension funds of the state and the city from fossil fuel companies such as oil, gas, and coal.
The state is planning to divest almost $400 billion from the industry with the goal of de-carbonizing pension funds. It’s a huge yet risky move for New York since the state’s Common Fun is the third largest in the United States.
Different environmentalists and environmental organizations are celebrating this major progress in the global movement for the divestment of fossil fuels. After five years of powerful advocacy from many environmentalists and climate activities, the state and the city have already moved to involve themselves in such proposal.
It is worth noting that these proposals are not just mere assumptions. A study from the Carbon Tracker Initiative states that the Earth can only burn 800 more gigatons of carbon equivalent in order for the Earth to linger under its two-degree Celsius limit.
Another study by the Oil Change International shows that the world would burn around 982 gigatons of carbon equivalent should everyone burn all fossil fuel resources. From both of these studies, one thing remains for sure: the burning of fossil fuels must be stopped as soon as possible if we want to stay under the two-degree Celsius limit.
In a statement, Governor Cuomo said that New York has already made immense strides in securing a clean and renewable energy for the state. With their nation-leading clean energy standard including the development of offshore wind energy and the aggressive investment in the clean technology economy, he continued, moving the Common Fund away from investments on fossil fuel industries will help protect the retirement saving of the people of New York.
Governor Cuomo further mentioned that he was already working with New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in studying how the $200 billion Common Fund can stop important investment in fossil fuels so that they can further reinvest in renewable sources of energy and a low-carbon economy.
It is worth noting that the pension fund of New York holds shares in more than 50 oil and gas companies. The ExxonMobil alone has been invested with nearly $1 billion. Divesting from various pollution entities like these fossil fuel industries can help achieve the clean energy goals of New York.
Governor Cuomo has cited several examples in recent times where divestment from fossil fuels was being planned out. Norway has intentions of divesting its $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund in gas and oil holdings. Moreover, the World Bank announces that it will stop financing oil and gas exploration after the year 2019. These are huge steps, but they could really be useful in the long run should we want to reduce our carbon footprints.
Meanwhile, Comptroller Singer mentioned that the city of New York is planning to examine ways on how to de-carbonize its portfolio also. He further said that this examination includes divesting current holdings in fossil fuel companies, the feasibility of ceasing additional investment in fossil fuels, and increasing the investments in clean and renewable energy.
Bill McKibben, one of those who has helped launch the divest movement, said that New York has finally taken a huge step towards divesting from fossil fuels. This has been a product of great activism. Moreover, this movement will resonate loud and evident all over the world because such proposal came from the capital of world finance: New York.
It is worth noting that more than 800 institutions represent more than $5.2 trillion in assets have already committed themselves to divest. As a matter of fact, other institutions have already cut their ties with fossil fuel companies. These include Columbia University, American Museum of Natural History, and Barnard College.
Rachel Rivera also praised the governor and the comptroller for their plans. The New York Communities for Change member congratulated the lawmakers for making New York the leading state in the country to fight against climate change. She stated that investing public funds in sources of climate destruction such as fossil fuels does not only bankrupt the state morally, but it is also a bad finance.
Neither of the proposals has given an end date for the proposed 100 percent divestment. Stringer mentioned that his office will still be bringing his plan to the New York City pension fund trustees for the coming weeks for deliberation. Cuomo, on the other hand, said that he would partner with New York State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli to establish an advisory committee to create and design a de-carbonization roadmap.
Either way, it is worth noting that these two proposals will have a significant impact on New York and to the rest of the world.