NYC Sues Fossil Fuel Industry over Hidden Costs of Climate Change

A view of the Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown Texas 2008

New York City announced on Wednesday that it filed a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against five top oil companies, citing their "contributions to global warming", as it said it would divest fossil fuel investments from its $189-billion public pension funds over the next five years.

The motion would also request that the city file an amicus brief in support of the NY and California lawsuits.

The lawsuit against oil giants BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell seeks to recoup billions in climate-related damages the city has already incurred, as well as pay for billions in new infrastructure and resiliency measures to fortify the city and protect its residents moving forward, officials say.

New York City follows cities and counties in and that have either filed or announced pending climate impact litigation. The mayor's office noted in a recent statement that Hurricane Sandy was a lesson for us on climate change's destructivity.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo previously has said he planned to halt future fossil fuel investments in the state's public employee pension fund.

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. But, even if there was, blaming this on the oil companies alone is disingenuous. It is unfortunate that the people who will need the pension monies will be deprived of potential wealth because of political posturing. The city's move is among the most significant divestment efforts in the world to date. The company's filing also argued the lawsuits were politically motivated and linked to cases brought by the states of NY and MA.

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In total, the city's five pension funds hold roughly $5 billion in the securities of over 190 fossil fuel companies.

But it's not just NY taking on the oil industry.

His position as Mayor is to run the city and not to tour the country promoting his progressive political agenda. In September, de Blasio's rollout of a new set of mandates to cut emissions from big buildings from the New York City Council, which accused the mayor of acting unilaterally and failing to go far enough with the proposed rules.

Part of New York City's vulnerability is that it is surrounded by water.

Bill McKibben, one of the co-founders, said in a statement that NYC stepping up to the plate in this matter is a huge step in battling fossil fuel emissions.

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