ICA and Standing Rock community member attend New York City Pension Fund public hearing on Climate C
To view the testimony provided by Waniya Locke, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Eriel Deranger, Executive Director of Indigenous Climate Action check out the Facebook live feed here: https://www.facebook.com/waniyal/videos/10155640096230831/
New York, NY - Experts and speakers ranging from economists, youth and faith leaders, indigenous rights activists, Superstorm Sandy survivors, and advocates thanked NYC Public Advocate Letitia James for organizing Wednesday’s public hearing on climate action and made their message loud and clear: It is past time for New York City’s pension funds to divest from fossil fuel companies. The NYC Pension Funds have more than $3 billion in oil, gas, and pipeline companies, like Exxon, Chevron, and TransCanada.
The hearing was held one month after thousands of New Yorkers marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy and call for real climate action from New York City and State, including fossil fuel divestment, adequately meeting ongoing needs in the hardest hit neighborhoods, applying pivotal lessons to plan for future climate disasters, and aggressively transitioning to a fully renewable economy. Over 150 local, state, and national organizations, with strong representation from neighborhoods impacted by the storm, led the march.
At today’s public hearing, over 50 speakers, some from as far away as Standing Rock and the Alberta tar sands region of Canada, put forward ample scientific, financial, and moral arguments for New York elected officials to divest from fossil fuels, as an essential means of mitigating the climate crisis.
Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, Executive Director of Indigenous Climate Action and a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation traveled from Northern Canada to deliver this message, “Communities like my own have been fighting to safeguard our lands and territories against dirty fossil fuel projects that poison our lands and water, impact our health and threaten our cultural survival. The rights and knowledge of Indigenous communities has been internationally recognized by the United Nations and the Paris Agreement, yet our rights are continually violated by these projects. Together we can make an immediate difference for communities like mine, communities along the pipeline corridor and for future generations if we take the necessary steps now to divest from fossil fuels and uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples.”
Just before the hearing, over 100 people rallied outside the Borough of Manhattan Community College calling for New York City to lead on climate, starting with immediate divestment of New York City’s pension funds. Frontline activists spoke to the impacts of climate change and fossil fuel extraction on their communities. New York advocates specifically called on Comptroller Stringer to be the climate champion he says he is and authorize divestment immediately.
Michael Johnson, a member of New York Communities for Change and a Sandy survivor said, “I lost everything when Sandy’s flood waters rose in my apartment in Coney Island. Five years later, it’s high time for New York City to take bold action to fight climate change. Rather than pouring billions of dollars into climate destruction by financing corporations such as Exxon and projects like the KeystoneXL pipeline, Comptroller Stringer and Mayor de Blasio should divest the city’s pension funds from fossil fuels. It’s great to see Public Advocate James shine a spotlight on this vital issue.”
New York City’s five pension funds have invested over $27 million in TransCanada, the energy corporation building the KeystoneXL pipeline. Just two weeks ago, over 210,000 tons of oil leaked from the KeystoneXL pipeline, causing irreparable damage. In addition, more than $3 billion is invested in other fossil fuel and pipeline companies. The New York City Employee Retirement System (NYCERS) has $39 million in investments in the Kinder Morgan Pipeline and $87 million in the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Waniya Locke, Ahtna Dene, Dakota, Lakota and Anishinaabe tribes and a water protector from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, noted, "Water never resists, it flows. We can flow like water into morally decisions of our environment; boosting communities, creating social justice and preserving for future generations as we divest. We can be flowing into divestment as we Stand Up to care for one another. MNI WICONI-Water is life."
Leaders at Standing Rock led the fight last year to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline project and continue to fight to protect the water source on their reservation that is endangered by oil flowing through the pipeline. The effort became a flashpoint last year that brought together indigenous leaders and activists across the nation.
Advocates stated that if New York City is really serious about being a climate champion in the wake of President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, they must stop paying lip service and do the work. That starts with withdrawing their investments in the very companies fueling the climate crisis.
Bill McKibben, the founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College said, "The immorality of investing in fossil fuels becomes more obvious with each passing year. From Sandy to Maria, New Yorkers have seen up close the effects of a planet whose basic systems have been damaged by the production of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel. Existing as it does just a few feet above sea level, New York has every reason to be a leader. Climate change is a timed test, and with each passing month our ability to combat it dwindles. We must act quickly, in the interest of a future that works for all of us."