Shame on The Hill for allowing Logan Albright to write a sloppy and slanted attack on the New York pension funds and the elected fiduciaries who are responsible for them without revealing the biases of the right-wing, corporate-funded organizations he represents.
Albright is so certain that there could not possibly be any financial case made for adjusting investment parameters to reflect climate change risk that he does not feel the need to support his concerns with any data or research, resorting only to sneering insults. Words like “clumsy” and “Upper East Side cocktail party crowd” cannot hide the complete lack of any factual basis for his charges.
While this may be a popular move with the Upper East Side cocktail party crowd, it’s hard to see how it will help the workers who rely on those pensions for their basic needs. A retired policeman or firefighter is more concerned with being able to afford groceries than with global carbon emissions. In a clumsy attempt to justify the divestment, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer pontificated, “Safeguarding the retirement of our city’s police officers, teachers and firefighters is our top priority, and we believe that their financial future is linked to the sustainability of the planet.”
Stringer’s comment is exactly what one would hope for. Unlike Albright, he has looked at the facts and the numbers and determined that the decision to reduce risk to fossil fuel is the best way to protect the retirement security of the pension plan participants.
Albright makes two unacknowledged and unsubstantiated assertions: first, that there is no financial basis for making this decision, and second that the city employees who are the pension plan participants are incapable of understanding the connection between climate risk and investment risk. It is striking that this piece appears on the same day that the Washington Post’s front page had a story about the Pentagon’s assessment of climate change risk in its own operations. Clearly, any fiduciary must be assessing portfolio risk as well.
Stringer is subject to the two strictest systems of accountability in our system: he is accountable as a fiduciary to be scrupulous in protecting the interests of the pension plan participants and he is accountable through the political process to the citizens and taxpayers of the city. In these capacities and upholding these standards, if he determines that the market is not currently evaluating the risks of investing in fossil fuel companies, which even Albright acknowledges is as likely as not, that is not politics; that is the market, and that is what capitalism is all about.