Divesting From Fossil Fuels

It has become more and more clear that climate change poses a key threat to the global financial system. In New York City, we are taking the fight straight to the fossil fuel industry for their role in creating this climate crisis by suing the five investor-owned fossil fuel companies most responsible for climate change, divesting the City's pension funds from fossil fuels, and investing in climate solutions. And we are working with cities around the nation and around the world to scale up climate action efforts and share tools, knowledge, and best practices, to ensure climate change and the interrelated issues of equity and social justice are addressed at a global scale.

In 2018, New York City committed to be the first major U.S. city to divest its pension funds from fossil fuels. The City pension funds are currently on track to have actionable plans to divest from fossil fuel reserve owners by late 2020 and the expectation is that the pension fund boards will be able to adopt a plan and begin execution in 2021.

In addition, the City pension fund trustees have committed to doubling their investments in climate solutions such as wind, solar power, energy efficient buildings and more to over $4 billion by 2021. The City has also committed to investing $50 billion in climate solutions by 2035 and achieving a net-zero portfolio by 2040.

Digital sign in NYC waterfront reading 'Fossil Fueling Inequality'

By committing to remove fossil fuel assets from investment portfolios and increasing assets in sustainable companies and projects, New York City is fighting back against the dangerous business models of fossil fuel companies. The Divest/Invest movement challenges the social license of the energy giants whose business models not only harm the planet, but have also become a material risk for them. In addition, not taking into account the lagging stock market performance and weak outlook of the fossil fuel sector could put pension fund trustees at risk of breaching their fiduciary duty. The City believes that in addition to divestment being the right thing to do, it is also the financially responsible strategy to protect investments.

Chart titled Cumulative Index Performance - Gross Returns (GBP) (NOV 2010 - APR 2020)

The International Divest/Invest Forum
New York City is working to leverage our national and international partnerships to inspire other municipal leaders and governments to take similar Divest/Invest 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, led by New York City and London, has fourteen participating cities to date, including the latest joiners Auckland, Melbourne and Stockholm.

The Divest/Invest Forum Workshop
In addition to educational webinars, meetings, and the toolkit, the Divest/Invest Forum hosts an annual workshop. This event brings together city leaders, pension fund managers, asset managers, investment consultants, and other stakeholders for cities to showcase their experiences with divestment to a foster dialogue and debate on the challenges and approaches to shifting towards low carbon, sustainable investments. In 2019, C40 and the City of London hosted the first Divest/Invest Workshop in London. In March 2020, New York City hosted a virtual version of the workshop. This annual convening helps urban leaders make the leap to effective and efficient divestment from fossil fuel companies and accelerate investment in climate solutions.

Additional Resources

New York City moves to divest pension funds from billions of dollars in fossil fuel reserves