New York City to divest $5bn pension funds from fossil fuel companies

FEB. 13 2015 FILE

New York City to Announce Climate Lawsuit Against Oil Companies

Mayor de Blasio's efforts don't stop there, as he and Comptroller Scott M. Stringer also announced plans to divest the city's pension funds from fossil fuel reserve owners.

New York City filed a federal complaint Tuesday against oil giants, saying BP, Chevron and three others must pay hefty damages to account for their contributions to climate change.

The city alleges the fossil fuel industry was aware for decades that burning fuel was impacting climate change.

Mayor de Blasio said: "New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major USA city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels". Meanwhile, New York City officials have already estimated it will cost more than $19 billion to adapt to climate change. As annual pension costs are rising to levels that had not been seen since the city faced an economic crisis in the 1970s, de Blasio's 2018 budget added $9.6 billion in payments to the pension funds.

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The press office for New York's city hall did not respond to a phone call and email seeking comment.

"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". Momentum behind the push to defund the fossil fuel industry is growing in NY; last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo called on the state's retirement fund to divest from fossil fuels.

"Nonetheless, they deliberately engaged in a campaign of deception and denial about global warming and its impacts, even while profiting from the sale of fossil fuels and protecting their own assets from the effects of rising seas and a changing climate". San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Oakland have done the same.

"Defendants are also responsible for leading the public relations strategy for the entire fossil fuel industry, downplaying the risks of climate change and promoting fossil fuel use despite the risks", they said. In fact, the number of proposals submitted by his office has nearly doubled over the past three years, vaulting the New York City Retirement Systems onto the top-10 list of most prolific sponsors of such resolutions anywhere in the country.

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"This is a first-in-the-nation step to protect our future and our planet - for this generation and the next", Stringer said.

Curtis Smith, a spokesman for Shell, said climate-change policies "should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change to drive low-carbon choices", and not by the courts. It also charges that the companies and the industry they are part of have known for some time about the consequences but sought to obscure them. Like New York, those cities are coastal and therefore more sensitive to sea level rise. A "playbook" by one of the individuals is said to underlie a lawsuit initially brought in 2015 that is led by the attorneys general (AG) of NY and MA.

NY charges in the lawsuit that it is "spending billions of dollars" to protect its coastlines, its infrastructure and its citizens from climate warming.

"There isn't anything you can point to and say, 'This is exactly like that case, '" Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, said in a Bloomberg interview. "That is the face of climate change", de Blasio said. 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.

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Various other USA cities have committed to divest their fossil fuel holdings. And while the press conference was still streaming live, several of us started to get emails from city councillors in other cities around the world, promising to initiate a similar process in their communities.

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