Welcome to our first GOOD NEWS post. I got going on Shades of Green during the summer of ’17 when I began reading in earnest about climate change, alternative energy and green innovation. Reading so much good news has been the best and most unexpected surprise of blogging.
It took me a while to realize GOOD NEWS should be a regular feature. In the last few weeks I’ve flagged stories I couldn’t wait to share. But on Wednesday the ultimate GOOD NEWS Story about divestment broke, so here it is.
Mayor de Blasio and Comptroller Stringer have announced plans to divest the NYC Pension Fund NOW! NYC’s fund is enormous – 179 billion dollars, 5 billion in fossil fuel related investments. It’s a big commitment and expected to take five years to complete (the normal timeline for large institutional investors.)
As our Rockland Divestment Chair Jordan Dale said to me when he shared Bill McKibben’s Op Ed piece in the Daily News “I’ve got goosebumps!” Indeed. The watchword to divestment activists has been “Be patient, things build slowly.” Well, now the accelerator is floored – goosebumps!
Bill McKibben: “Like those three-card-monte players (McKibben recalls while living in NYC as a young man), the oil industry has run a con, and too many public officials have fallen for it… Divestment means rocking the boat, offending the powerful…But now that New York is fully engaged (and in court), it will make a massive difference. Everyone knows that New York is the center of world finance, that this is literally where the smart money lives and works.”
I’ve worked in pension fund advocacy and wondered if the divestment of billions from gigantic funds will really mobilize other investors. I was psyched to read what economists had to say about this news.
Jeffrey Sachs: This is a really big deal…Pension funds of other major US cities will follow…The divestment movement is active and growing and by its nature, New York will play a big leadership role. New York hosts Wall Street, the UN and the US media, it will now be the centre of climate action too.
Paul Ferraro: Divestment isn’t about economically punishing businesses, it’s a tool of collective action that can politically isolate companies. New York is fabulous in this respect because it’s so visible and it gives others room to create change. But it will only work if everyone follows, much like how everyone has to reduce their electricity use collectively for it to have a consequence for climate change.
Paul Ferraro gives us our call to action: become actively engaged in divesting our own portfolios as well as instrumental in activating our financial advisors and other community stakeholders to participate.
If divestment of fossil fuels isn’t a strong enough force to get fossil fuel companies to change their business model or our country to change its policies, the litigation NYC is pursuing against ExxonMobil, Shell, Conoco Phillips, Chevron and BP, will bring ample leverage to the issue.
The Nation, New York City v. Big Oil gives great coverage of this story.The litigation focuses on the knowledge these companies had as early as 1982 about the negative impact they were having on climate change. As a result of their actions and cover-up, New York City estimates it has suffered over 20 billion in damages which this suit seeks to reclaim. Its legal foundation is based on the successful tobacco litigation of the 1990s and the sea change that followed regarding policy and use of tobacco products.
SO – If you invest in the stock market and you’ve just learned influential, smart investors are recommending NYC divest 5 billion dollars of fossil fuel holdings and reinvest some of that in fossil free mutual funds; and also found out that NYC lawsuits against the biggest fossil fuel companies have been filed, it’s time to take notice of a big red flag within your portfolio.
Or think of it as a New Years Resolution to create a healthier portfolio for yourself and the planet.
Gabe Rissman’s companion article about how to find healthier mutual funds will be published soon. Hit FOLLOW on the home page to make sure you get his and future blog posts.
If you want to get involved with the NYC or NYS Pension Divestment efforts, you can start by attending a national watch party on January 31 to deepen your Climate Change commitment and whet your political chops.
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