Daily ESG Briefing: New York pension funds to sell $4bn in fossil fuel divestment

The latest developments in sustainable finance

Two of New York City’s public pension funds have voted to divest their fossil fuel securities, estimated to be worth $4bn. The decision by New York City Employees’ Retirement System and New York City Teachers’ Retirement System was announced yesterday. The New York City Board of Education Retirement System is expected to take its vote on divestment "imminently".  Last year, the three funds appointed Massachusetts-based consultant Meketa Investment Group and BlackRock to advise on fossil fuel divestment. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who oversees the funds as a trustee, first announced that the City’s five funds would explore divesting in 2018. New York City Police Pension Fund and the New York City Fire Pension Fund have not been referenced in relation to the divestment plans. 

The Church of England Pensions Board and the Council of Ethics of the Swedish National Pension Fund are leading efforts to create a ‘2030 Investor Agenda’ for the mining sector. To mark the second  anniversary of Brazil’s Brumadinho tailings dam disaster, which killed 270 people, investors with more than $20trn in assets under management, committed to step up engagement efforts to improve the management of tailings dams and ensure the protection of workers in the industry. The group has already been involved in the development of a global industry standard for tailings management, and will establish a number of working and advisory groups. In addition to this, corporate disclosures by 65% of the mining industry, including 45 of the 50 largest mining companies, have led to the creation of a global database of tailings facilities. 

Workers at Google’s parent company Alphabet have announced the launch of a new international union alliance. The alliance, which will be called Alpha Global, includes Alphabet Workers Unions from 10 countries including the US, Germany and the UK. According to figures from UNI Global Union, the Alphabet Workers Union in the US tripled in size in its first week.

Professional services firm Aon has released its annual Weather, Climate and Catastrophe Insight Report, which found that $268bn of economic losses were caused by 416 natural catastrophe events in 2020 – $154bn of this damage was caused by tropical cyclones and flooding. Only $97bn of the damage caused was covered by insurers. 

The first Net Zero Barometer report, published by the British Standards Institution, has found that business leaders’ understanding of the implications of reaching Net Zero is poor. According to the survey, of 1,000 UK decisionmakers and sustainability professionals, 64% were not confident they understood the impact Net Zero could have on their firm, with 82% saying they require more guidance. However, 70% of those surveyed still said that their business had made or was considering making a solid commitment to Net Zero by 2050.

Spanish bank Cecabank has appointed fintech company Broadridge Financial Solutions to provide it with a global proxy voting solution, allowing its clients to comply with the EU Shareholder Rights Directive. The move comes as the Spanish government is due to make SRD II a legal requirement.

The Managing Director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, has described climate resilience as a “critical priority”, saying the body will take further steps to integrate climate-related risk in its country assessments and macroeconomic data. She also emphasised the economic benefits of green transition, saying that rising carbon prices and a green infrastructure could boost global GDP by 0.7% over the next 15 years.