Leading the Way on Climate Investment

Climate change poses significant risks to the Common Retirement Fund’s (Fund) investments, the economy and society as a whole, but the global effort to mitigate these risks creates substantial investment opportunities as well.

Comptroller DiNapoli’s Climate Action Plan takes a comprehensive approach to addressing climate risk and investing in climate solutions. This multi-faceted approach employs sustainable investment strategies, active engagement with portfolio companies and managers, sophisticated risk assessments, strong public policy advocacy and, as a last resort, divestment.

Because of his efforts, DiNapoli has been recognized as a global leader in addressing climate change-related investment risks and pursuing opportunities for the Fund’s investments. For two consecutive years, the Asset Owners Disclosure Project ranked the Fund as the top U.S. pension fund, and third globally, for its efforts to assess and combat climate-related investment risk.

To learn more about how the Fund is addressing climate change-related risk, please see the 2022 Progress Report on the New York State Common Retirement Fund’s Climate Action Plan.

Fund’s 2040 Net Zero Commitment

In December 2020, Comptroller DiNapoli announced that the Fund has adopted a goal to transition its portfolio to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. As the world increasingly moves toward net zero emissions targets by or before 2050, this goal will continue to ensure the Fund’s portfolio is adapting to the anticipated transition.

As part of its net zero commitment, the Fund will continue to:

  • Increase its engagement efforts with companies across industries to encourage them to reach net zero carbon emissions more quickly.
  • Vote against board directors at portfolio companies that fail to take steps to mitigate climate risks.
  • Expand its investments in climate solutions.

Climate Action Plan

In 2019, Comptroller DiNapoli released a Climate Action Plan that lays out a path for the Fund to further address climate risk in its portfolio. The fundamental strategy of DiNapoli’s Climate Action Plan includes using minimum standards to assess the readiness of companies for the low-carbon transition and climate-related investment risk.

By using minimum standards to evaluate the transition readiness of companies in high-impact sectors, the Fund can place companies with poor performance on a watch list for prioritized engagement. Companies that fail to demonstrate minimal transition readiness may be subject to additional actions, consistent with the Comptroller’s fiduciary duty, such as underweighting, restricting new investments or divestment.

To date the Fund has developed transition risk assessment frameworks and set minimum standards for thermal coal mining, oil sands, and shale oil and gas companies, resulting in divestment from 55 firms that the Fund determined failed to demonstrate transition readiness. The Fund is now assessing integrated oil and gas companies that engage in all facets of the oil and gas business, from exploration and production to transportation, refinement and retail sales. The Fund’s goal is to complete its primary review of energy sector companies’ transition readiness by 2025. After completing initial reviews, the Fund will continue to reassess whether those energy companies are meeting minimum standards and are on viable low-carbon transition pathways.

Investing in Climate Solutions

DiNapoli’s Climate Action Plan has committed more than $16 billion to sustainable investment opportunities to date, with the goal of investing $20 billion before the end of the decade. Finding those investment opportunities that will provide solid and sustained returns is the work of the Sustainable Investment and Climate Solutions Program and its dedicated staff. The Fund invests in clean energy, climate solutions, green buildings and infrastructure, and other sustainable investments across all asset classes. This includes investing in green bonds and sustainable index funds such as the Fund’s $2 billion investment in the Russell 1000 TPI Climate Transition Index, which is focused on reducing the risks of climate change and capitalizing on the opportunities arising from the transition to a low-carbon economy.

For more information, see the Fund’s Sustainable Investment and Climate Solutions Program.

Engagement and Advocacy

Comptroller DiNapoli advocates for companies to disclose and address climate risk, and commit to long-term business model changes that will allow them to thrive in a low-carbon economy. He also provides public policy leadership on climate issues that may impact the Fund’s returns at the global, federal and state levels. As part of his advocacy, DiNapoli has:

  • Filed over 160 climate-related shareholder resolutions that have resulted in more than 80 agreements to enhance climate risk disclosure and analyze emissions reduction, renewable energy, and energy efficiency goals.
  • Won broad shareholder support to have large emitters such as ExxonMobil and Duke Energy examine how the Paris Agreement will impact their businesses.
  • Established policies to vote against board directors at companies that fail to manage and disclose material climate risks. In 2021, the Fund withheld support from or voted against 404 individual directors at 88 portfolio companies that lacked robust climate risk management, including Berkshire Hathaway, Chevron Corporation, Phillips 66 and Reliance Steel.
  • Supported the Paris Agreement, the Inflation Reduction Act with its historic investment to counter climate change, the SEC’s proposed Climate-Related Disclosures Rule, the Clean Power Plan, tax credits for solar and wind power, fuel efficiency standards, carbon pricing, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Reports and Background