Economy

NYC sues oil companies over climate change

NYC sues oil companies over climate change

New York City on Wednesday filed a multibillion dollar lawsuit against five top fossil fuel companies, citing their "contributions to global warming", as it unveiled a plan to cut fossil fuel investments from its $189 billion public pension funds over the next five years.

The city will seek billions in damages to cover infrastructure improvements needed to protect New Yorkers from the increasing effects of climate change.

New York's goal of eliminating about $5 billion in securities of almost 200 oil companies, would be among the biggest public pension divestments from fossil fuels to date, the city said in a statement.

In seeking to recover damages created by climate change, New York City joins a handful of California cities and counties which have already filed similar lawsuits against major fossil fuel companies.

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"New York City joins a growing list of governments both within and beyond the United States determined to hold Exxon, Shell and other fossil fuel producers accountable for their role in the climate crisis", Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law, said in a press statement. NY state has already announced it is exploring how to divest from fossil fuels.

Hurricane Sandy paralyzed the USA financial capital in 2012, unleashing nine-foot (three-meter) floods across coastal NY and New Jersey, and causing an estimated $71 billion in damage.

A recent study found that by 2030 the city's 8.5 million could experience Sandy-likeflooding every five years and a report compiled in 2015 by the second New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) found temperature, precipitation and sea level rise are increasing in the city.

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In so doing, NY is following the legal footsteps of several California local governments that now face a countersuit from ExxonMobil challenging what the oil giant describes as their failure to inform investors of the climate risks facing their jurisdictions.

Stringer admitted the divestment will be "complex" and will take some time but said the city's pension funds could promote sustainability while also protecting the retirement of teachers, police officers and other city workers.

Various other US cities have committed to divest their fossil fuel holdings.

With 8.5 million residents, NY is America's most populous city, and also serves as its financial and entertainment capital.

"With its communities exceptionally vulnerable to a rising sea, the city is showing the spirit for which it's famous - it's not pretending that working with the fossil fuel companies will somehow save the day, but instead standing up to them, in the financial markets and in court".

The initial reaction from industry backers was to criticize de Blasio's "politicization" of climate change.

Philanthropies have included the Wallace Global Fund and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, notable because the late John D. Rockefeller grew his wealth as an oil baron.


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