December 9, 2020 Read More →

New York’s state pension fund to divest most fossil fuel stocks in coming five years

The New York Times:

New York State’s pension fund, one of the world’s largest and most influential investors, will drop many of its fossil fuel stocks in the next five years and sell its shares in other companies that contribute to global warming by 2040, the state comptroller said on Wednesday.

With $226 billion in assets, New York’s fund holds sway over other retirement funds and its decision to divest from fossil fuels could accelerate a broader shift in global markets away from oil and gas companies, energy experts and climate activists said.

The announcement comes after the fund moved to sell its stock in 22 coal companies last year. New York City, San Francisco, Washington and several smaller cities have also committed to fossil fuel divestment plans, but New York State’s commitment to such a sweeping step is more significant, especially given the state’s centrality to the global financial markets.

The state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, had long resisted a sell-off, saying that his primary concern was to safeguard the taxpayer-guaranteed retirement savings of 1.1 million state and municipal workers who rely on the pension fund.

But on Wednesday, Mr. DiNapoli signaled that the main goal was to set up the fund for long-term economic success in a world moving away from fossil fuels. “New York State’s pension fund is at the leading edge of investors addressing climate risk, because investing for the low-carbon future is essential to protect the fund’s long-term value,” he said in a statement.

New York’s fund, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, has historically invested about $12 billion in fossil fuels. Now it is committing to sell its investments in any oil, gas, oil-services and pipeline companies that do not have clear plans to abandon the fossil fuel business. Few companies have disclosed such plans. The fund is also pledging to push other companies it invests in to reduce the amount of planet-warming greenhouse gases that they and their suppliers emit. The fund will sell its stakes in the firms if they have not eliminated such emissions by 2040, according to the announcement. The plan could free up billions of dollars for potential investment in renewable energy and carbon-neutral industries, analysts said.

[Anne Barnard]

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