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New York City mayor calls for pension funds to divest coal holdings

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday he will ask the New York City Retirement Systems to divest coal investments to help the city address climate change as part of his plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

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

Coal-related investments make up at least $33 million out of $163.4 billion in total assets among the five pension funds that make up the retirement system, according to the news release.

The mayor also called for the pension funds to develop a long-term investment strategy that evaluates all fossil-fuel investments.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer, the fiduciary for the five pension funds, supported Mr. de Blasio. The city comptroller’s office will “work closely” with the mayor to conduct a “comprehensive” study, Mr. Stringer said in the same release.

Mr. de Blasio’s divestment proposal “would encompass all publicly traded holdings — stocks and bonds,” said Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for the mayor, in an e-mail. “The proposed divestment would include our holdings in separate accounts for our publicly traded assets, both indexed and actively managed.”

Mr. de Blasio’s news release said he will offer his proposal “in the coming months” to the five pension funds. Each pension fund has a separate board of trustees, and each acts independently.

“We are asking our consultants and investment adviser to engage in a study on the full potential impact to our risk-return profile, as well as the transaction costs and potential timeline for any actions taken,” Ms. Spitalnick added.

An analysis by Mr. de Blasio’s office of pensions and investments showed that divesting coal investments “poses little risk to pension fund returns,” the release said. This office is an adviser to the mayor’s appointees to the various public pension fund boards.