NYC Comptroller Lander and City Pension Funds Call on Major U.S. and Canadian Banks to Set Absolute GHG Emissions Targets for High Emitting Sectors

This statement was originally published by the New York City Comptroller on January 24, 2023.

New York, NY – Today, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander and three of the New York City Retirement Systems (the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System, and Board of Education Retirement System) announced shareholder proposals at Bank of AmericaGoldman SachsJPMorgan Chase, and Royal Bank of Canada calling for the banks to disclose absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets for 2030.

The shareholder proposals call for an absolute reduction target aligned with a science-based net zero emissions pathway – a widely-recognized standard for evaluating whether companies are genuinely on a path to meet net zero commitments.

“Shareholders applauded these banks when they set net zero goals – but it can’t be all talk. We expect them to take the steps needed now to reduce emissions on the timeline to which they have committed. We are asking Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Royal Bank of Canada to follow the lead of their peers by setting and disclosing absolute, science-based targets for 2030, to show investors they are serious about reaching those goals. Absent a concrete plan to reduce absolute emissions in the real world in the near term, any net zero plan rings hollow,” said New York City Comptroller Brad Lander.

The proposals filed at Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Royal Bank of Canada specifically request that the absolute GHG emissions targets cover lending and underwriting for oil and gas and power generation sectors. The proposal at Bank of America, co-filed with the New York State Common Retirement Fund, requests that the GHG emissions reduction targets cover lending and underwriting in the Company’s energy sector.

As members of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, these banks have committed to publish progress against absolute emissions and/or emissions intensity targets. Unfortunately, while some other major U.S. and foreign banks have set absolute emissions reduction targets, these four banks have only set targets to reduce the intensity of their emissions. Intensity reduction targets do not capture whether the Company’s total financed emissions have decreased in the real world. As a result, while these four banks have set net zero emissions goals for 2050, they are not taking a basic step of setting interim reduction targets that account for total portfolio emissions. The proposals encourage the banks to demonstrate to shareholders that they are taking a critical step towards achieving their net zero goals.

The shareholder proposals are in line with recommendations outlined in Integrity Matters: Net Zero Commitments by Businesses, Financial Institutions, Cities, and Regions, developed by the UN High-Level Expert Group to establish credible standards for net zero plans. There is global agreement that failing to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will have serious ramifications on our planet and make limiting global warming impossible. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has advised that GHG emissions must be halved by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Any increase above 1.5°C will bring heightened physical, transition, and systemic risks to companies, investors, the markets, and the economy as a whole. Climate change mitigation is therefore critical to address investment risks in order to avert the large economic losses projected to occur if insufficient action is taken.

Other consumer banks have already set interim targets to reduce absolute emissions. Citigroup has committed to reducing its absolute emissions for the energy sector by 29% by 2030 and Wells Fargo has set a target to reduce absolute emissions for the oil and gas sector by 26% by 2030. Other banks with absolute reduction goals for the oil and gas sector include HSBC (34%), Société Generale (30%), BBVA (30%), and Deutsche Bank (23%).

Each proposal requests the issuance of a report within one year.

As of November 2022, the three New York City Retirement Systems combined have a total holding of:

  • 7.74 million shares of Bank of America stock valued at $239.04 million.
  • 437 thousand shares of Goldman Sachs stock valued at $168.82 million.
  • 2.99 million shares of JPMorgan Chase stock valued at $412.91 million, and
  • 293 thousand shares of Royal Bank of Canada stock valued at $28.92 million.

These proposals are a part of the pension funds’ overall approach to achieving net zero emissions in their investment portfolio by 2040.

“These proposals are an essential step towards achieving a net-zero future,” said Bryan Berge, representative of Mayor Eric Adams, chair of the Board of Trustees of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System and trustee of the New York City Teachers’ Retirement System. “We are proud to lead this shareholder effort to secure a better tomorrow.”

In addition to Comptroller Lander, the trustees of the aforementioned systems are as follows:

New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS): Mayor Eric Adams’ Appointee Bryan Berge, Director, Mayor’s Office of Pension and Investments; New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams; Borough Presidents: Mark Levine (Manhattan), Donovan Richards (Queens), Antonio Reynoso (Brooklyn), Vito Fossella (Staten Island), and Vanessa L. Gibson (Bronx); Henry Garrido, Executive Director, District Council 37, AFSCME; Richard Davis, President Transport Workers Union Local 100; and Gregory Floyd, President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 237.

Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS): Mayor Eric Adams’ Appointee Bryan Berge, Director, Mayor’s Office of Pension and Investments; Chancellor’s Representative, Seritta Scott, New York City Department of Education; and Debra Penny (Chair), Thomas Brown, and David Kazansky, all of the United Federation of Teachers.

Board of Education Retirement System (BERS): Schools Chancellor David C. Banks, Represented by Seritta Scott; New York City Comptroller Brad Lander’s Representative Alison Hirsh; Mayoral appointees Lilly Chan, Marjorie Dienstag, Khari Edwards. Gregory Faulkner, Anita Garcia, Anthony Giordano, Dr. Angela Green, Maria Kenley, Michelle Joseph, Alan Ong, Phoebe Sade-Arnold, Maisha Sapp, Gladys Ward; CEC appointees Naveed Hasan, Jessamyn Lee, Thomas Sheppard, and Ephraim Zakry; Borough President Appointees Geneal Chacon (Bronx); Tazin Azad (Brooklyn); Kaliris Salas-Ramirez (Manhattan); Sheree Gibson (Queens); Aaron Bogad (Staten Island); and employee members John Maderich of the IUOE Local 891 and Donald Nesbit of District Council 37, Local 372.

To read the orginal article, click here.