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New York governor calls on Common Retirement Fund to move away from fossil-fuel investments

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday proposed that the New York State Common Retirement Fund halt all new investments "with significant fossil-fuel-related activities" and prepare a plan to divest existing fossil-fuel investments.

"New York has made incredible strides in securing a clean energy future for this state … yet the Common Fund remains heavily invested in the energy economy of the past," Mr. Cuomo said in a news release.

"Moving the Common Fund away from fossil-fuel investments will protect the retirement savings of New Yorkers," he said. "This proposal lays out a roadmap for the Common Fund to take responsible steps to divest from its fossil-fuel holdings."

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the sole trustee of the $201.3 billion pension fund, said in a prepared statement that "there are no immediate plans to divest our energy holdings," adding that he welcomed Mr. Cuomo's suggestion to work with the governor to create an advisory council on emphasizing clean energy investing for the pension fund. Mr. DiNapoli is an independently elected public official.

Mr. DiNapoli didn't quantify the size of the pension fund's fossil-fuel holdings, but he did note that the pension fund has a $2 billion low-carbon index that "shifts investments from the worst emitters to those companies that reduce their greenhouse gas emissions."

Mr. DiNapoli said the pension fund will expand this index next year. "The fund's commitment to sustainable investments is $5 billion and growing," he said.

According to the governor's proposal, he and Mr. DiNapoli "will work together" to create an advisory committee that would enable the Common Retirement Fund "to develop a decarbonization roadmap."

This effort would enable the pension fund "to invest in opportunities to combat climate change and support the clean tech economy while assessing financial risks and protecting the (pension) fund," the news release said.

In 2017, the pension fund "listed holdings in more than 50 oil and gas companies that have been identified as among the 100 most carbon-intensive in the world, a figure that has increased since 2016," Mr. Cuomo's news release said.

The New York pension fund has been a prominent player among institutional investors in persuading corporate boards to increase their analysis of the impact of climate change on their portfolios and to increase reporting to the public.