New York City Announces Plan To Divest From Fossil Fuels

Joann Johnston
January 13, 2018

New York City's effort to hold oil and gas producers responsible for costs related to the environmental effects of their products faces an uphill battle as it tries to stretch the current law to address climate change. Mayor Bill de Blasio's $84.9 billion budget plan for 2018 includes $9.6 billion in payments to the city's five pension funds. NY is the neighborhood of the very big money managers.

Court documents state that NY has suffered from flooding and erosion due to climate change and because of looming future threats it is seeking to "shift the costs of protecting the city from climate change impacts back on to the companies that have done almost all they could to create this existential threat".

Seven Californian cities have sued the fossil fuel industry over the same reason.

The biggest city in the US sued BP Plc, Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp., and Royal Dutch Shell Plc claiming they're the world's largest industrial contributors to climate change.

Commenting on the news that New York City is divesting its massive pension fund from fossil fuels, McKibben says "its decision signals the start of a real rout".

"New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major U.S. city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels", said Bill de Blasio, New York's mayor.

In a media statement, mayor DiBlasio said, "This is a tragedy that was wrought by the fossil-fuel companies, [so] we are going after those who have profited".

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The lawsuit links global warming to extreme temperatures, severe snowfall, risen sea levels, and more flooding across the state.

A 2017 study revealed that Exxon had known about the human contribution to creating climate change, but it kept the issue secret.

But it's not just NY taking on the oil industry. NY state had previously subpoenaed (request for evidence by court order) documents from Exxon, in 2016, in a bid to uncover whether the oil company misled investors over the risks of climate change.

City attorneys across the Front Range should use the New York City lawsuit as a template in order to recover damages for their residents and communities for the harm caused by the oil and gas industry.

"Safeguarding the retirement of our city's police officers, teachers, firefighters and city workers is our top priority, and we believe that their financial future is linked to the sustainability of the planet", Comptroller Scott Stringer said in the statement.
One of those firms, Exxon, has complained that it has been targeted by a "collection of special interests and opportunistic politicians" as part of a "conspiracy" to force the company to comply with various political objectives.

Both theories have been used to attack polluters, though not on the scale of global climate change. "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". And it's time to do something different in New York City, isn't it?

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