Climate Week: New York’s Stringer says fossil divestment RFP could be issued before year-end

Head of New York funds speaking at Climate Week

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has said that a request for proposals for a fossil fuel divestment strategy for the City’s $175bn (€150bn) pension pot could be issued before the end of the year, following “tremendous interest” from the market to a request for information on the issue earlier this year.

Stringer, speaking on a panel convened by his office to mark Climate Week in New York yesterday, said:

“As we study how we take the $5bn [in fossil fuel investments] out of our pension fund… we have been able to send out a request for information, as we do need consultants to help us with strategy. We’ve had tremendous interest and now we are going to our trustees to brief them on it, eventually there will be an RFP, maybe by the end of the year.”

Stringer, who announced that the New York City’s five funds would divest its fossil fuel holdings by 2023 last January, stressed it was “imperative” that fiduciaries “look at divestment as a way of protecting retirement savings”.

He added that whilst he was bound by his fiduciary responsibilities, “the goal of [New York City] Mayor, Bill de Blasio, the trustees, and myself is clear.

“We are going to do everything we can to get as much money out of things that are killing us and put the most amount of money that we can in the things that will save us as a country and as a planet.”

Earlier this month, de Blasio and Stringer announced that the city’s pension funds will double their investment in climate change solutions to $4bn by 2021.The panel also included Sir Merrick Cockell, Chair of the London Pensions Fund Authority, who announced that the UK’s £16bn ($22bn) Local Pension Partnerships (LLP) has divested thermal coal from its global equities portfolios, following a review into potential risks in the global energy sector.

Cockell added that fossil fuel companies “involved in extraction” that score level one and below according to the Transition Pathway Initiative’s (TPI) ranking and who fail to “comply or explain” in relation to the investor-backed engagement initiative would also be divested this year. The same, he said, will apply to companies scoring level two and below from 2019.

Cockell, a Conservative former head of the wealthy Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, described both announcements as “real and visible steps” of LLP’s 2017 climate change policy.

LLP, one of the eight new UK local government pension pools, is a collaboration of Lancashire County Council, the LPFA and the Royal County of Berkshire pension fund.

Elsewhere, UK-based Standard Chartered Bank has announced that it will no longer finance new coal-fired power plants anywhere in the world, “save where there is an existing commitment”. The announced move builds on the firm’s previous commitment not finance any new stand-alone thermal coalmines.