New York City Sues Oil Companies in Climate Change Lawsuit

New York City Sues Oil Companies in Climate Change Lawsuit

New York City is already implementing its over $20bn resiliency program, which aims to recover from climate change damages and prepare for future climate events by building resilience against rising seas, more powerful storms, and hotter temperatures.

New York City plans to divest roughly $5 billion in fossil fuels reserve holdings from its $189 billion pension system-the largest of any USA municipality to date, city officials announced Wednesday.

Representatives for BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

"We're saying simply that this city - which suffered so deeply after Hurricane Sandy - has literally experienced billions and billions of dollars of damage as a result of climate change that these specific companies aided and abetted, and they should pay damages for that, very much the same way that tobacco companies were forced to pay damages for the frightful impact that they had knowingly on public health for so many years".

In addition to the litigation, officials said they expect to divest up to $5 billion in investments from as many as 190 companies with fossil fuel ties, even as they promised to maintain their fiduciary duty to New York's pensioners. We are going to lead the fight against climate change as if our lives depended on it.

BP and ConocoPhillips declined to comment.

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Naturally, the move prompted swift condemnation from the fossil fuel industry. Now, with a prominent city outside of California pressuring these oil giants, New York City is setting a precedent for other states to tackle the issue as well.

Curtis Smith, a spokesman for Shell, said by email: "We believe climate change is 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". The funds are expected to be diverted elsewhere within five years. Schneiderman's lawsuit against ExxonMobil claims that there is evidence that Exxon had "two sets of numbers" used to discuss the impact of climate change on the company - one set for the public and one for private company conversations. 12 percent of the funds' assets ($22 billion) are also invested in a group called the "Developed Environmental Activist" asset class, which has underperformed overall funds' returns by an average of 600 basis points over the last three calendar years for which full data are available.

"So let's be clear, I don't think anyone who is looking for fundamental change on this issue would fail to note that the biggest worldwide petroleum companies are the core of the problem". To make it a reality, the city needs support from the trustees of its five pension funds.

"Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue and requires global participation and actions", said Exxon Mobil's Scott Silvestri.

"Today's announcement sends a message that clean investments are a priority and ensures pensions are funded with the best interest of New Yorkers in mind", Powers said in the January 10 statement.

In 2017, San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Imperial Beach, as well as Santa Cruz County, Marin County, and San Mateo County made an attempt to sue oil companies over the role they play in climate change, but the lawsuit never made any headway.

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