Climate conference debrief with DiNapoli

Matthew Hamilton

Times Union

Nov 20, 2017

After traveling to Germany earlier in the week for a United Nations climate conference, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli told CapCon on Friday that it was reassuring to hear that there are opportunities to invest state pension fund money in environmentally sound strategies.

“Other investors on a global basis are seeking and finding opportunities to invest in strategies that are consistent with the evolution of a lower-carbon economy,” he said. “That was a reassurance that there are opportunities out there and opportunities to make money and yet be part of investment strategies that are sustainable from an environmental point of view.”

As trustee of the state pension fund, DiNapoli was in Germany for COP23 to take part in panel discussions on investments and climate. Some other notable U.S. officials were in attendance as well, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Gov. Jerry Brown. Notably absent was President Donald Trump, who announced earlier this year that the United States would pull out of the Paris climate agreement earlier this year. (There was a Trump administration delegation at the conference; it held a panel on which fossil fuel, coal and nuclear energy representatives spoke)

“I think part of why I got invited to participate is there clearly was a strong desire for some level of reassurance that U.S. players, be they government officials or investors, are still interested in working with the global community on the issue of climate,” he said. “I think the U.S. representatives that were there received in some ways an outsized attention because of the concern about what Trump has said about pulling out of Paris,” DiNapoli added.

The conference was about more than just investment strategies, of course.

DiNapoli noted that Fiji was leader of this year’s conference, and that island nations are facing a real sense of urgency when it comes to mitigating impacts of climate change.

In New York, Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee have underscored the adverse impacts of extreme weather events. DiNapoli said he sees opportunities for New York to reach out to not just to other states but to other countries as well to develop best practices for addressing the changing climate.

“There’s no doubt that in the side conversations people were asking more broadly about programs like (the regional greenhouse gas initiative) and certainly there was an interest in what states and what localities are doing,” DiNapoli said. “… I think the global community understands that states and localities will pick up for what Washington is not doing.”

“People asked about what is New York doing in terms of dealing with these issues, what are our goals in terms of renewable energy,” he added. “I talked to some of them about what the governor’s plan is on that. … Those are the kind of conversations that these kinds of gatherings certainly promote and would make sense for us to be involved in.”