One analyst says oil, gas and coal were the biggest pension contributors for 30 years, but now are the worst performing sector—and there are no signs of improvement.Youth climate strikers gather at New York City's Foley Square on Sept. 20, 2019, to participate in what's believed to be the largest global climate protest ever organized. Credit: Kristoffer Tigue/InsideClimate News
Despite never having heard of a pension plan before this year, 18-year-old Natalie Penna finds herself discussing New York state's retirement fund, and its role in financing the fossil fuel industry, quite a lot lately.
"We're investing in these things that will temporarily benefit the people who are making money off it in their pensions, but what's left for us afterwards?" she said. "What's the world going to look like for us?"
Penna, who typically spends her free time running on the track behind her school or carefully mixing oil paints to splatter on a canvas, has found a new passion in lecturing lawmakers on the dangers of investing in fossil fuels. The Albany High School senior is one of hundreds of youth from across New York now urging state legislators and other officials to divest the nation's third largest pension system of its fossil fuel holdings, arguing that failing to do so ignores the reality of climate change and goes against the state's mandated emissions reduction targets.