New York City Comptroller Brad Lander and national climate activists are calling on international asset manager, BlackRock, to stop investing in the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and to start leading the way in divesting.
BlackRock holds a value of about $10 trillion and is among the world’s biggest investors in coal production, advocates said during an online forum Monday. The company has $109 billion in assets in the coal sector based on BlackRock’s filings through November 2021, according to a February analysis released by Urgewald, a German-based environmental group that tracks investments in the fossil fuel industry.
Last December, BlackRock invested $15.5 billion in natural gas pipeline projects in Saudi Arabia. BlackRock manages around $62.5 billion of investments for the city’s pension funds as of May 31, according to the comptroller’s office.
Lander has faced pressure from climate activists to be more aggressive with the firm.
In the virtual forum Monday, hosted by the group Climate Families, Lander said the city’s pension system cannot achieve its net-zero climate targets unless BlackRock does more to divest from fossil fuel holdings.
“We can’t possibly hit the goals we’re committed to if our largest managers don’t do it and we will need to be looking at all our business relationships through this lenses of ‘are they consistent with our net-zero commitment,’” Lander said.
BlackRock has projected that at least three quarters of its investments in companies and governments will be tied to issuers with science-based targets to cut net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
But Lander said that is not enough, calling on the firm to benchmark their entire portfolio rather than just 75% of it and to develop a “real plan” for the phase-out of their highest emitting assets with science based data and regular annual reporting.
“That’s the standard everyone’s going to have to set and live up to,” Lander said. “It’s easier to make pledges than it is to live up to them.”
When asked when the city will consider pulling funds from BlackRock if the company does not move quickly enough, Lander said he is not ready to “lay a marker down” yet, but that it’s a question the city will need to start asking.
BlackRock did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
New York City’s pension fund is one of the largest in the country at around $250 billion invested and Lander had pledged to divest from fossil fuels in his 2021 campaign. Last October, former Comptroller Scott Stringer and former Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that three of the city’s five pension funds had set a goal to achieve net zero greenhouse gas holdings in their investment portfolios by 2040. The comptroller’s office will release an implementation plan by October, Lander said.