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

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The mayor is "seeking billions in the lawsuit to recoup money spent by the city for resiliency efforts related to climate change", from the major oil companies, the Associated Press reports.

Three of the five companies the city is suing - Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell - said the lawsuit has no merit and that the courtroom is not the place to fight global warming.

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". Which makes sense because NY, a city surrounded by water, is on the frontline when it comes to climate change impacts as well, from sea level rise to intense storms.

The mayor's office said the "resiliency" program could cost the city upwards of $US20 billion ($A25billion) in the near future.

This is in addition to separate legal action by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to hold the industry accountable for misleading the public about climate change. But that's not all New York City is doing to fight climate change.

"A collection of special interests and opportunistic politicians are abusing law enforcement authority and legal process to impose their viewpoint on climate change", ExxonMobil's lawsuit said.

Climate change activists around the city, including the leader of a Sunset Park group, are praising a decision by the de Blasio administration to divest $5 billion in pension holdings from companies dealing in fossil fuel.

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ConocoPhillips declined to comment, and neither BP nor Shell could immediately be reached. "Similar to recent lawsuits in California, this headline-seeking stunt is an absurd attempt to politicize natural disasters, rather than a good-faith effort at securing meaningful change". The cities of San Francisco and Oakland and the city and county of Santa Cruz have also filed suit this year.

"Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue and requires global participation and action", Exxon Mobil spokesman Scott Silvestri told Bloomberg.

The move against Big Oil comes on the same day that the city announced it would eliminate fossil fuel investments from its $189 billion pension fund.

New York City's "toughest challenge" may be climate change in the coming decades. "As someone with a small city pension, I can also state unequivocally my financial future is inextricably bound to this planet's future", he said in a statement.

Though Oakland and San Francisco have filed similar lawsuits in recent months, New York City says it is the first major US pension plan to divest from fossil fuel reserve owners. Cities like NY are now facing the very costly consequences of global inaction to reduce climate change.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, de Blasio focused on the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, calling it "a tragedy wrought by the actions of the fossil fuel companies". Adding to the urgency of this problem, it is estimated that the sea level is rising 50 percent faster around NY than the global average.

"We commend the mayor, comptroller and trustees of the city's pension funds for their commitment to divest from fossil fuels".

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