NYC's Unprecedented Climate Action: Divest Pension Funds from Oil Companies


Undeterred, one of the most prominent members of the latter group - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio - sued ExxonMobil and four other oil companies on Wednesday, seeking to hold them responsible for present and future damages to the city from climate change.

The biggest city in the USA said on January 10 that it's suing 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.

"Recently uncovered documents make it clear that the fossil fuel industry was well aware of the effects that burning fossil fuels would have on the planet's atmosphere and the expected impacts of climate change as far back as at least the 1980s", de Blasio's office states.

Also, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city's $189 billion pension fund would divest itself of fossil fuels, although such a move would need to be approved by the funds' trustees.

De Blasio claimed fossil fuel companies were complicit in worsening climate change, because they knew of the problem decades ago but continued to sell a product to Americans that contributed to only more greenhouse-gas emissions.

The New York City (NYC) has announced its plan to divest pension funds of $5bn from fossil fuels reserve owners.

Such is the power of an action emanating from a center as symbolically important as New York City: What felt politically impossible yesterday suddenly seems possible, and the dominos start instantly falling.

Stringer acknowledged that divesting from fossil fuels will be "complex" and will "take time".

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced similar plans for the state pension funds last month. At the same time, we're bringing the fight against climate change straight to the fossil fuel companies that knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits.

"The era of fossil fuel industry profiteering from climate deception with impunity is finally ending", said Peter Frumhoff, UCS director of science and policy. "Climate change is here and is harming New York City". Works carried out using this initial funding will be the "first step" in preparing the city for climate change, but more will be needed.

In 2015, New York's Attorney General Eric Schneiderman began investigating whether Exxon lied to the public and its investors about climate change's risks.

Sea levels in NY have risen more than foot since 1900, according to the state's Department of Environmental Conservation-twice the global rate.

The 67-page suit, filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, says that the fossil fuels the companies produce are the primary cause of climate change and the firms "had full knowledge that fossil fuels would cause catastrophic harm" yet are "denying or downplaying those threats". A resolution submitted on Wednesday to the boards of the five funds called for them to "initiate a process for determining a prudent divestment" strategy in keeping with the fiduciary duty to responsibly manage the funds.

NY joins cities such as Washington DC and Cape Town in divesting, along with universities such as Stanford in California and Oxford in the UK. "It's a life or death matter", said de Blasio.

"This is what climate leadership looks like".

"The bar for being a climate leader has just been dramatically raised", author and Nation contributor Naomi Klein told the conference. A virtuous cycle. Oh, and the more we are able to hit the industry in the pocketbook, the less likely costly new drilling and pipeline projects will be to go ahead, no matter how many precious national parks and pristine coastlines the Trump administration attempts to desecrate.