Bill De Blasio Teams Up With London Mayor Sadiq Khan To Go After Big Oil

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and London Mayor Sadiq Khan call on other cities to divest from the fossil fuel industry. 
  • New York City and London have already taken steps to remove billions in oil and gas investments from pension funds. 
  • Critics argue that, no matter your stance on climate change, public pensions should be free from politicization. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and London Mayor Sadiq Khan are teaming up to encourage municipalities around the world to do away with their fossil fuel investments.

Publishing a joint op-ed in The Guardian Monday, de Blasio and Khan announced they are “taking all possible steps” to eradicate their own cities’ pensions of any investments into the fossil fuel industry, arguing that it is a necessary step on the road to combating climate change.

“We believe that ending institutional investment in companies that extract fossil fuels and contribute directly to climate change can help send a very powerful message that renewables and low-carbon options are the future. If we want to fund the scale of transformation the world needs, we must foster sustainable investment and use the power of institutional investors, such as pension funds,” de Blasio and Khan wrote.

De Blasio has long championed oil and gas divestment from the city’s coffers. The liberal leader announced as early as January that he was weighing options with the New York City comptroller on how to pursue divestment options for pension funds. Now de Blasio says the goal is to rid New York City of its fossil fuel investments within five years — a task that would require removing around $5 billion from the industry.

It appears that Khan, a member of the U.K.’s left-wing Labour Party, is farther along in his quest to divest his city from the oil and gas sector. Of the London Pension Fund Authority’s $5.5 billion in investments, less than 2 percent are still in extractive fossil fuels. He plans to direct the Pension Fund to completely divest. (RELATED: Former State Treasurer: Mayor De Blasio’s Divestment Politics Putting Pensions At Risk)

“Climate change knows no borders, and taking this kind of action now could help us make a crucial difference to the people we represent and the future of our planet,” the two mayors concluded.

Their op-ed — which encourages following the guidelines set out in the Paris climate accord — comes shortly before the Global Action Climate Summit in San Francisco.

A growing number of environmentalists are calling for divestment of the fossil fuel industry as a means to combat climate change, with a number of progressive cities and organizations pledging to do so. However, critics argue that a city’s pension fund — which many government retirees depend on for their income — should be free from politicization.

Christopher Burnham, an investment expert and former state treasurer of Connecticut, is the founder and president of the Institute for Pension Fund Integrity, a non-profit group that fights for fiduciary responsibility in public pension funds. Burnham has been critical of de Blasio for using these funds for his climate change agenda.

“It’s sad that the politicization of public pensions has spread to our ally across the Atlantic,” Burnham told the The Daily Caller News Foundation. “While the need to combat climate change is real, doing it on the backs of our public pension retirees and the taxpayers is simply wrong. Pushing for this divestment goes against the fiduciary responsibility of the pension fund managers and puts the retirement funds, that millions of New Yorkers and Londoners rely on, at risk for reduced returns,” he continued.

“This decision should not be made based on the political whims of the cities’ leaders.”

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