New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a federal lawsuit against the five biggest oil companies in the USA for their role in climate change and global warming that led to Hurricane Sandy, which wreaked havoc on the city.
The city alleges the fossil fuel industry was aware for decades that burning fuel was impacting climate change. "We are going to lead the fight against climate change as if our lives depended on it - because they do", de Blasio said.
According to the lawsuit, as reported by The New York Post, "The city seeks to shift the costs of protecting the city from climate change impacts back onto the companies that have done almost all they could to create this existential threat".
The biggest city in the USA said Wednesday that it's suing BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell claiming they're the world's largest industrial contributors to climate change.
Representatives for BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue that requires global engagement. Following through on that promise, a statement from the city released Wednesday says that he and Mayor Bill de Blasio "will submit a joint resolution to pension fund trustees" to begin the steps needed to purge the funds from the dirty industry, which will first entail an analysis on the financial impacts to be carried out by the City Comptroller's Bureau of Asset Management.
The lawsuits are the latest legal challenges against oil companies over climate change and come as the firms are searching for new business models amid pressure by governments and consumers for cleaner energy.
Exxon this week hit back against the California lawsuits in a filing with a Texas state court pointing out none of the cities disclosed such risks to bond buyers and arguing the lawsuits were politically motivated and linked to cases brought by the states of NY and MA. An Exxon Mobil spokesman said the company "welcomes any well-meaning and good faith attempt to address the risks of climate change", but that lawsuits such as this one do not.
New York's lawsuit follows similar suits filed by seven cities and counties in California.
Stringer admitted the divestment will be "complex" and will take some time but said the city's pension funds could promote sustainability while also protecting the retirement of teachers, police officers and other city workers.
The Mayor also announced a goal to divest City funds from fossil fuel reserve owners within five years that would make New York City the first major USA pension plan to do so. He and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli are creating an advisory committee to examine the way to proceed with divestment.
Vondrich said other cities and entities selling off fossil fuel interests have included Berlin and Washington, D.C.; insurance companies Swiss Re, Axa and Allianz; and educational institutions such as the University of Oxford in Great Britain, Stanford University in California and Trinity College in Ireland.
Norway's trillion-dollar wealth fund, the largest of its kind, in November proposed cutting billions of dollars in oil and gas stocks.
The American Petroleum Institute has previously said the divestment movement is misguided. The industry group's NY executive director, Karen Moreau, accused him of hurting pension holders in "a disgraceful way to score cheap political points".
The National Association of Manufacturers also weighed in.
The National Association of Manufacturers, which represents the oil companies, slammed NY for joining a "politically-motivated campaign to undermine manufacturing in America". "The mayor's announcement may raise his profile, but it will do nothing to address climate change and will ultimately fail".
"New York City today becomes a capital of the fight against climate change on this planet", said Bill McKibben, co-founder of environmental group 350.org, in a statement.