NYC's Biggest Pension Fund Lost $135 Million From Oil and Gas Holdings
A new report from Advisor Partners revealed that in one year alone, New York City’s largest pension fund lost around $135 million from their holdings in the top 100 oil and gas companies. The Teacher’s Retirement System of the City of New York, representing more than 200,000 teachers, educators and workers, incurred a 25 percent reduction in returns of their $60 billion fund from investments in oil and gas.
“If it’s wrong to wreck the climate, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage—but our city’s pension funds are incurring nothing but losses by investing in fossil fuels," Mimi Bluestone, a member of the United Federation of Teachers and a campaigner with 350NYC, said. “The money lost from oil and gas investments just in the last year is equivalent to putting about 7,000 students through school for a year. It’s time for New York City to get out of the business of climate destruction.”
The findings of this report add significant momentum to activists calling for fossil fuel divestment. Organizers with 350NYC have been campaigning for the city council to divest the city’s five pension funds from all fossil fuels for over three years. During the Paris climate talks, it was announced that more than 500 institutions representing over $3.4 trillion in assets under management have committed to some level of fossil fuel divestment.
ExxonMobil and Chevron were the largest contributors to the fund’s declining performance, causing losses surpassing $39 million. In November, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an investigation into Exxon’s climate lies after groundbreaking reports revealed that the corporation knew about climate change for decades, yet poured resources into discrediting their research and sowing doubt among the public. California Attorney General Kamala Harris has also launched an investigation.
“Oil & gas companies are volatile investments. The fact that these companies underperformed both the U.S. and broader global index by more than 25 percent confirms the riskiness of these companies,” Rahul Agrawal, CIO of Equities for Advisor Partners, said. “Portfolio managers should carefully reassess their exposure to these securities before investing in them.”
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Mayor Bill De Blasio have already issued urgent calls for the city’s pension funds to divest from coal. Coal is on its way out, oil prices are plummeting and major fossil fuel companies are filing for bankruptcy, slashing jobs and cancelling projects.
“The prudence of divesting from coal is so legible it is quickly becoming the norm. Oil and gas are on a more asperous decline, making it harder for investors to see the mounting risk associated with the industry. New York City’s pension funds need to divest now, as cautious, long-term investors,” Brett Fleishman, senior analyst with 350.org, said.
“With this summit happening right in their backyard, NYC’s comptroller and pension fund managers must communicate exactly what they’re doing to incorporate ever-increasing climate risk mitigation and to protect the future of New York City’s workers.”
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.