Pension funds, she added, are conservative investors that have been reluctant to make decisions seen as political, “so for a major investor to say we’re getting out of this business sends a very strong market signal that climate change is a financial risk.”
New York’s fund, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, has historically invested about $12 billion in fossil fuels. Now it is committing to sell its investments in any oil, gas, oil-services and pipeline companies that do not have clear plans to abandon the fossil-fuel business. Few companies have disclosed such plans.
The fund is also pledging to push other companies it invests in to reduce the amount of planet-warming greenhouse gases that they and their suppliers emit. The fund will sell its stakes in the firms if they have not eliminated such emissions by 2040, according to the announcement. The plan could free up billions of dollars for potential investment in renewable energy and carbon-neutral industries, analysts said.
Richard Brooks, a senior strategist with the climate advocacy group 350.org, welcomed Mr. DiNapoli’s announcement.
“People now understand that it’s pension funds and universities and asset managers who are all enabling this industry, propping it up and allowing it to continue to pollute in communities, cause climate change and lobby against meaningful climate action,” said Mr. Brooks, whose group was one of 40 climate advocacy and retiree organizations that had waged an eight-year campaign to persuade New York institutions to shift their investments.
He added, “It’s part of a larger movement, increasingly including some banks and insurance companies, to reshape the financial industry in the U.S.”
The movement is growing around the world, with pension funds in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Sweden adopting divestment plans. António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, has urged governments, foundations and universities to follow suit.