NY sues fossil fuel majors, plans divestment from pension funds

NY sues fossil fuel majors, plans divestment from pension funds

Today New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer announced that the city is suing five major fossil fuel companies for their contribution to climate change, and that by 2022 the city's pension funds will divest from fossil fuels.

The lawsuit seeks to recover billions of dollars in damages from BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell for their role in creating - and perpetuating - climate change.

The lawsuit follows the city's announcement that it plans to divest its pension funds from fossil fuel companies. The City's move is among the most significant divestment efforts in the world to date.

"As climate change continues to worsen, it's up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making NY safer and more resilient".

The city charges in the suit that the companies should be forced to pay damages because they were aware of the effects of burning fossil fuels on the climate as far back as the 1980s, but deliberately deceived authorities and the public.

New York City's pension system is the fourth largest in the US, and controls around $5 billion in the securities of more than 190 fossil fuel companies.

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The lawsuit cited recently-uncovered documents about what oil companies knew about the threat from climate change. A spokesman for BP declined to comment to the AP.

In response, a Shell spokesman called climate change a "complex societal challenge that should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change to drive low-carbon choices for businesses and consumers, not by the courts". With New York City becoming the first city outside of California to officially file a climate-related liability lawsuit, the comparison becomes even more apt, hinting at the possibility of a multi-state coalition similar to the 46-state coalition that was a part of the tobacco settlement. In addition to New York City, one other non-Californian city - Boulder, Colorado - has indicated an interest in filing a lawsuit against fossil fuel companies for their role in climate change.

"New York is not only suing the oil companies, it's announcing a massive divestment from them", Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, told ThinkProgress via email.

In November, Norway's central bank urged the Norwegian government to consider divesting oil and gas company shares held in the $1 trillion oil fund.

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