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

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

Such David versus Goliath bravery becomes easier now that an entity as rich and powerful as New York City has joined the fight.

This week, ExxonMobil asked to depose 16 California state officials who sued the company over selling fuel they say is warming the planet, raising the seas and, they contend, threatening their communities - just the most recent escalation in the legal fight between the largest US oil and gas firms and blue-state officials over climate change. So the city is suing BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell, the Associated Press reports.

Daniel Zarrilli, the city's senior director of Climate Policy and Programs and Chief Resilience Officer, echoed that statement, saying, "Today, after a decades-long pattern of deception and denial by fossil fuel companies, New York City is holding them to account". These include rising sea levels, high temperatures, high precipitation and an increased likelihood of more frequent and intense flooding.

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".

Announcing the lawsuit in a press release Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city plans to divest its pension funds from fossil fuels within five years.

In fact, NY remains divided over the best way to advocate for better climate policies. ConocoPhillips declined to comment, and neither BP nor Shell could immediately be reached.

The money that the city pulls out of fossil fuel investments would need to be reinvested and Netram questions if it will be able to get comparable returns.

New York City follows in the footsteps of six California cities and counties, including San Francisco and Oakland, which filed their own climate lawsuits against the same five oil companies previous year.

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The mayor compared the oil companies to cigarette manufacturers, who knowingly made and marketed a product they knew was deadly.

New York's suit is particularly notable because its attorney general is investigating whether ExxonMobil misled investors about its risks to climate change.

In making the announcement, De Blasio had tough words for the oil and gas industry. Hurricane Sandy degraded to a post-tropical storm before hitting the eastern seaboard.

In 2017, the California cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Imperial Beach, as well as Santa Cruz county, Marin County, and San Mateo County attempted to sue oil majors over climate change damages, citing a theory called "public nuisance".

"The reality of this proposal is that divestment won't do anything to cut greenhouse gas emissions", said Netram.

In what the comptroller's office is calling a "first-in-the-nation" step towards the five-year divestment goal, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer will submit a joint resolution to pension fund trustees.

In his victory speech the night after his reelection, Blasio claimed his having won 66 percent of the votes cast gave him a mandate to make NY the "fairest big city in America".

"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.

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