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$226 billion pension fund considers dumping oil & gas investments

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The $226-billion New York State Common Retirement Fund is undertaking a review of all energy companies it is invested in, to assess their readiness for the energy transition and dump those considered riskiest in climate-related investment.

As it pledged on Wednesday to transition its portfolio of holdings to one with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, the pension fund—the third-largest in the U.S. after CalPERS and CalSTRS of California—said that it would complete by 2025 a review of all its holdings in energy companies to assess “their future ability to provide investment returns in light of the global consensus on climate change,” New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.

“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,” DiNapoli added.

The Fund is currently concluding its evaluation of nine oilsands companies and will develop minimum standards for investments in shale oil and gas. By 2025, the reviews will include all fossil fuel sectors, including integrated oil and gas companies, other oil and gas exploration and production, oil and gas equipment and services, and oil and gas storage and transportation.

The Fund has been calling for years on ExxonMobil, for example, to start accounting for climate change risks.

In a letter to shareholders ahead of this year’s annual meeting in May, DiNapoli, in his capacity of Trustee of the Fund, wrote:

“As the world, ExxonMobil’s peers, and investors confront the climate emergency, ExxonMobil is carrying on as if nothing has changed. It is crystal clear to us that ExxonMobil’s inadequate response to climate change constitutes a broad failure of corporate governance and a specific failure of independent directors to oversee management.”

After the meeting, at which Exxon’s shareholders rejected proposals for a report on lobbying and a report on the risks of petrochemical investments, DiNapoli said that “Exxon, in particular, has made itself an outlier for its refusal to seriously account for the demands of a lower carbon global economy.”

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