Environmental Activists Celebrate NY’s Divestment From Fossil Fuels (Video)

Responding to pressure from environmental groups, New York has become the first state to divest its massive public pension fund from fossil fuel companies.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced Wednesday the Empire state will begin transitioning $226 billion to net-zero-emissions portfolios by 2040.

The fund, DiNapoli explained, is planning to complete an investments review within five years to identify the “riskiest companies” from which to divest.

He said:

“We continue to assess energy sector companies in our portfolio for their future ability to provide investment returns in light of the global consensus on climate change. Those that fail to meet our minimum standards may be removed from our portfolio. Divestment is a last resort, but it is an investment tool we can apply to companies that consistently put our investment’s long-term value at risk.”

In his New York Times op-ed, “You Should Have Listened, New York Tells Big Oil,” 350.org founder and leader, Bill McKibben, wrote:

“It’s a huge win, obviously, for the activists who have fought for eight years to get Albany to divest from fossil fuel companies and for the global divestment campaign. Endowments and portfolios worth more than than $14 trillion have joined the fight. 

“But it also represents something else: capitulations that taken together suggest that the once-dominant fossil fuel industry has reached a low in financial and political power.”

Last year, New York passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), intended to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, making it the second state, behind California, to aim for a totally carbon-neutral economy.

Five years ago New York banned hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.”

As Massachusetts legalizing same-sex marriage in 2004 set the precedent for the Supreme Court to follow suit a decade later, and 15 states legalizing recreational marijuana use motivated the House of Representatives last week to pass a federal legalization bill, New York’s shunning of “the riskiest” fossil fuel polluters is an example of change happening at the local level.

With them on the ropes, other state legislatures will no doubt follow New York’s lead.

Activism works.

There is a future without fossil fuels.

Image credit: fabiusmaximus

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.