Tuesday, 19 June, 2018

NYC to divest from fossil fuel companies, sues 5 oil firms

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces NYC's plan to divest from fossil fuels Mayor Bill de Blasio announces NYC's plan to divest from fossil fuels
Orlando Vargas | 11 January, 2018, 21:16

The city of NY has announced it will divest from fossil fuels and has filed a climate lawsuit against five energy giants it is accusing of causing pollution.

The suit alleges that ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP and ConocoPhillips bear responsibility for the costs of climate damages due to their outsized contributions to global warming emissions and decades of sowing doubt about the risks of their products.

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".

"Our industry has led the way in reducing USA carbon emissions to their lowest levels in almost 25 years due to the increased use of clean and abundant natural gas to deliver reliable electricity, " API New York Executive Director Karen Moreau said in a statement.

BP and ConocoPhillips, two other defendants named in the lawsuit, declined to comment.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer announced Wednesday that they will divest city pension funds from fossil fuel owners within five years, a move that officials say is a first-in-the-nation step.

Blasio said: "New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major United States city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels".

"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".

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- This post was updated at 12:25 P.M. EST.

In total, the city's five pension funds hold roughly $5 billion in the securities of more than 190 fossil fuel companies. Let's be clear: "that's where it came from", de Blasio said. Shell's spokesman echoed that sentiment.

"We are going after those who have profited", the mayor said.

New York's lawsuit echoes a similar effort on the west coast, where two California counties and a city are suing 37 fossil fuel companies for knowingly emitting risky levels of greenhouse gases. Last year, San Francisco and Oakland sued Big Oil on similar grounds.

The trustees will also seek legal opinion as to whether carrying out the divestment would comply with trustees' fiduciary duties to beneficiaries.

Kyle Isakower, vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, has previously said that divestment is a "tactic of misinformed activists" that is "incompatible with job creation, affordable energy, and economic prosperity". More than half of the greenhouse gas pollution from fossil fuels has occurred since 1988.

"ExxonMobil welcomes any well-meaning and good faith attempt to address the risks of climate change".

In so doing, NY is following the legal footsteps of several California local governments that now face a countersuit from ExxonMobil challenging what the oil giant describes as their failure to inform investors of the climate risks facing their jurisdictions. Naomi Klein, a director of environmentalist group 350.org said that it represents a "collective victory for the fantastic climate justice movement".

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