New York City Comptroller Stringer to examine decarbonisation of city pension funds

Announcement comes as state governor pressures NY Common

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has announced he will examine ways to decarbonise the city’s five pension funds, which have a combined value of $160bn.

It comes as State Governor Andrew Cuomo has separately called for the New York State Common Retirement Fund, for state employees and the third largest public pension plan in the US, to develop a plan to “de-carbonize” its portfolio.

Stringer said in a statement that his office would bring a proposal to the trustees of the funds (for city employees like the fire and police departments and teachers) in the coming weeks “to examine ways to de-carbonize the portfolios, including the feasibility of ceasing additional investments in fossil fuels, divesting current holdings in fossil fuel companies, and increasing investments in clean energy”.

Stringer, known for his ESG leadership in areas such as his Boardroom Accountability Project, continued: “I will work with our trustees to review any and all proposals that will safeguard the pension funds.”

Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo called on the $192bn Common Fund to stop all significant fossil-fuel investments and develop a plan to “de-carbonize” the portfolio.

“Moving the Common Fund away from fossil-fuel investments will protect the retirement savings of New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in a statement.

He tweeted that the Common Fund would “take responsible steps to divest from its fossil fuel holdings”.In his statement, he cited recent moves by the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund to consider fossil fuel divestment and an announcement by the World Bank that it plans to cease financing oil and gas exploration.

“Fully and aggressively committed to a carbon-free, clean energy future.”

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who oversees the NY Common fund, said the fund has “no immediate plans to divest our energy holdings” but that he would work with Cuomo on ways to contribute to the low-carbon economy.

Cuomo said he and DiNapoli would work together to create an advisory committee of “financial, economic, scientific, business and workforce representatives” as a resource for the Common fund to develop a de-carbonization roadmap.

“Adopting this approach will send a strong message to the financial markets that major investors, including New York State, are fully and aggressively committed to a carbon-free, clean energy future.”

The fund has already invested $2bn in a low-carbon index with Goldman Sachs and was the co-filer of the successful shareholder proposal at Exxon Mobil.

In March NY Common said it would evaluate all of its external managers on ESG grounds.