Teachers' Fossil Fuel Divestment

S.4783A | A.6331A

The New York Youth Climate Leaders advocate for comprehensive, equitable, and effective climate solutions. We strive to improve New Yorkers’ quality of life, protect frontline communities, and ensure environmental and economic vitality for generations to come. For this reason, we adamantly support the Teachers’ Fossil Fuel Divestment Act. This act aims to protect our teachers by ensuring the secure future that pensions are intended to provide. It aligns our public investments with New York State’s climate policies as established by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. A rapid shift away from fossil fuel investments is needed to avoid the terrible mounting financial, health, and environmental costs to New Yorkers caused by the use of fossil fuels. 

 

It is fiscally irresponsible to invest in fossil fuels. The industry’s returns now significantly lag behind the rest of the market. For example, a report from Corporate Knights estimates that if the NYS Common Retirement Fund had divested from fossil fuels in 2008, it would be $22.2 billion better off today. Despite the negative impacts fossil fuel investment has shown to have on funds, the NYS Teachers Retirement System increased its investments in coal by $400 million dollars in 2020. Going forward, the worldwide transition to renewables and the prospect of massive litigation are expected to accelerate the decline of the fossil fuel industry. Reserves kept in the ground will become stranded assets resulting in significant devaluation of fossil fuel stocks. 

 

In December of 2020, Comptroller DiNapoli announced that he will be divesting the $226 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund from oil and gas companies by 2025 and decarbonize by 2040. There is precedent for divestment in New York State; the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System must follow the lead of the New York State Retirement Fund. 

 

In addition, it is morally inexcusable to invest in the continued destruction of our environment and damage to our economy caused by climate change.  Superstorm Sandy alone caused over a hundred deaths, disrupted the lives of thousands of New Yorkers, and cost billions of dollars. It is simply wrong to support the industry that is causing this destruction. 


As young people, we understand deeply the disaster ahead if we continue to prop up the fossil fuel industry that is currently steamrolling over our futures. We understand that we will be left with the burden of global temperature rises, deadly heat waves becoming the norm, food shortages, increased wars over resources, drought, deteriorated air quality, more ferocious and frequent natural disasters, collapsing ecosystems, among a myriad of other crises. We also understand that the climate crisis has placed these burdens most heavily on disadvantaged peoples, especially people of color, Indigenous peoples, and the elderly. It is time to stop propping up a deadly, dying industry. It is time to act for the people. It is time to listen to the youth, who are shouting out of fear, but also out of hope. We are hopeful that legislators will realize the value of the Teachers’ Fossil Fuel Divestment Act in our fight for a clean, green, and equitable future. Divestment is a financial and moral imperative for the long-term survival of the climate, the economy, and all communities of New York State.