A group of more than a thousand scientists, academics and researchers are calling on the state to pull pension funds out of oil, gas and other fossil fuel companies.
Cornell Professor Doctor Robert Howarth says New York can be a leader in climate change mitigation, just as the state has taken other positive steps.
“We have the most aggressive and progressive climate legislation of any state, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. It calls for 40% reduction of all greenhouse gas emissions within 10 years, and yet our state pension fund is still investing in fossil fuels, totally inconsistent with what the assembly, the senate, the governor, and the people of New York want us to be doing.”
Howarth adds fossil fuels have already contributed to reduced global agriculture output by 15 %; affected drinking water; and cost society through droughts, wildfires and increased storm activity. Those who signed the letter are calling for passage of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Act. It would direct the State Comptroller to take pension funds out of the oil, gas and related businesses.
SUNY Law Professor Rebecca Bratspies is founder of the Urban Center for Environmental Reform. She says fossil fuel companies are toxic, not just for the environment.
“They’re toxic economically, losing well over a billion dollars this year alone for our funds. Exxon was removed from the Dow for a reason. Analysts increasingly describe fossil fuel companies as losing relevance. By refusing to divest, New York puts the financial security of its civil servants at risk” said Bratspies.
In addition to environmental and financial reasons to divest, the scientists and academics stress the urgency to stop supporting fossil fuel companies. They say the window to reduce emissions and ward off the worst impacts of climate change is less than a decade. Manilus Councilor and Elected Officials to Protect New York Steering Committee Member Katelyn M. Kreisel says New York State needs to take its commitment to the environment one step further.
“New York enacted our nation’s most ambitious actionable plan to mitigate the climate crisis. But in order for the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act to succeed, we need to limit greenhouse gasses rapidly. This includes shifting investment capital away from fossil fuels and towards clean renewable energy sources. The New York State’s Common Retirement Fund should be a part of this effort, not stand in its way. With over 1,100 academics citing scientific evidence to divest, the Comptroller needs to take note”
Hundreds of EOPNY Members signed a letter that called for the New York State’s pension fund to divest from the fossil fuel industry by 2020. Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the fund's sole trustee, let the deadline pass with no action. Nevertheless, the EOPNY is continuing to press for the divestment of fossil fuels.