BUSINESS
09/29/2015 10:59 am ET

New York's Next Move Could Shake Up The Climate Change Fight

Mayor Bill de Blasio is urging the city's pension funds to join the cause.

NEW YORK -- Mayor Bill de Blasio is ready to quit coal.

On Tuesday, the de Blasio administration urged New York City's five pension funds -- worth a collective $160 billion -- to sell their $33 million exposure to coal.

“New York City is a global leader when it comes to taking on climate change and reducing our environmental footprint," de Blasio said in a statement. "It’s time that our investments catch up -- and divestment from coal is where we must start."

The push comes just as this year's Climate Week -- an annual series of events and panels around New York in which business leaders, government officials and advocates discuss the low-carbon economy and announce environmental commitments -- comes to a close. 

Fossil Free

The mayor's announcement adds momentum to the movement to divest from coal. So far, institutions ranging from pension funds to religious groups have divested $2.6 trillion from the industry. Georgetown University voted in June to divest from coal and other fossil fuels. Stanford University said last year that it would no longer use any of its $18.7 billion endowment to invest in coal companies. 

Last month, the Australian city of Newcastle -- the world's largest coal port -- announced plans to divest from four big banks if they continued to fund fossil fuel companies. Earlier this month, the California legislature passed a bill requiring state pension funds to sell their investments in coal.

If the administration's proposal succeeds, New York will be the biggest city yet to join the divestment movement.

"Coming just after news that the divestment movement has engaged institutions collectively worth $2.6 trillion, and the passage of California legislation that will divest the country’s largest pension funds from coal, Mayor de Blasio’s announcement is another big step adding even more momentum to this campaign," May Boeve, executive director of the environmental nonprofit 350.org, said in a statement. "We expect to see other municipal leaders around the world take note of the Mayor’s words today, and join New York in acknowledging the financial and moral imperative to divest from climate chaos."

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