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New York City to divest from coal

City pension funds called on to align with energy landscape transformations.

By Daniel J. Graeber
New York City to divest from coal
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio calls for city pension funds to divest from coal. Pool photo by Jin Lee/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- In the coming months, all five New York City pension boards will consider a proposal to divest from coal, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

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

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For New York City, a sustainability plan mandates an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Five pension funds for New York City have assets of more than $160 billion, with about $33 million tied to coal. The governor's office said the divestment initiatives would align city pension funds with current trajectories in the energy market.

The federal Clean Power Plan set a goal of cutting emissions of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, by 32 percent of their 2005 baseline by 2030, 9 percent more than in the original proposal. States need to meet specific emission reductions based on state-by-state energy consumption criteria.

New York state law requires that 30 percent of the electricity in the state comes from renewable energy by the end of this year. Most of its renewable power comes from hydroelectricity.

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Responding last week to a message of income equality from Pope Francis, the National Mining Association said what it described as "impressive" reductions in emissions from U.S. power plants was a testament to its commitment to environmental responsibility and to providing an affordable source of energy.

"Fossil fuels, especially coal, have been responsible for lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the past 30 years, more people that have been freed from poverty in the past 300 years," the association said.

In response to a Francis encyclical on climate change, however, Notre Dame University said it will stop relying on coal for electricity within five years and cut its carbon footprint by more than half before the end of the next decade.

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