(Bloomberg) -- New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, who helps oversee about $240 billion in pension funds, said efforts by conservative US states to thwart the financial industry’s plans to address climate change are just a cover to defend the interests of oil companies.

Lander is referring to the growing backlash by elected officials from Republican-led states including Texas and West Virginia against companies that have curbed business with the oil and gas industries. A bevy of states have enacted laws in the past year to curtail ties to companies that engage in so-called boycotts of the energy industry.

Red-state treasurers and politicians are “protecting fossil-fuel executives and their country-club cronies with a sort of war of political distraction,” Lander said in an interview. “That risks very real, extra costs to their constituents and long-term harm to their portfolios and to the planet.”

Lander added that the oil and gas industry has a long history of rejecting “climate action at every single scale, just like cigarette and tobacco companies fought very hard against any kind of action or change.”

Republicans including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence also have decried the rise of a popular investing strategy that takes into account environmental, social and governance risks. Texas enacted a law in 2021 that prohibits state pension funds such as the Teacher Retirement System of Texas from investing in companies that boycott fossil-fuel companies, with some exceptions.

Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar is probing energy policies at investment firms including BlackRock Inc. to determine whether the companies are engaged in a boycott against the industry. He’s expected to release a list of companies in the coming weeks that he considers to be engaged in boycotts.

For its part, BlackRock has told Texas officials that it’s committed to helping clients invest in the energy industry. The world’s largest asset manager oversees about $310 billion of investments in energy firms worldwide, including more than $115 billion in Texas companies.

Lander said BlackRock has walked back some of its climate pledges and, as a result, New York City’s pension plan has been in conversations with the firm because it can’t meet its own goals if its money managers don’t meet their targets. “We are approaching this as responsible fiduciary investors,” he said.

New York City has announced plans to reach net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions across its investment portfolios by 2040, becoming one of the first cities to do so. BlackRock is the largest outside manager of the city’s pension funds, Lander said.

“We need to be asking questions of all our managers about what their commitments are and how they’re living up to them, and making sure that they’re aligned with our commitments to be net zero by 2040,” he said.

Officials at BlackRock declined to comment specifically on Lander’s remarks and pointed to past statements in which the firm said its role is to help clients “navigate investment risks and opportunities, not to engineer a specific decarbonizaion outcome in the real economy.”

Lander said discussions with companies including Ford Motor Co., General Electric Co. and Duke Energy Corp. have resulted in those businesses taking “meaningful” action on climate. Duke Energy, for example, announced plans in February to increase spending on carbon-free power after a law in its home state of North Carolina mandated deep cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Being a comptroller, being a fiduciary of pension obligations for hundreds of thousands of people, you keep an eye on the long term, you pay attention to the science,” Lander said. “You make the wisest, long-term and responsible decisions you can.”

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