New York City is suing five oil companies over climate change.
"As climate change continues to worsen, it's up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making New York safer and more resilient", New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.
At a news conference in lower Manhattan, an audience of environmentalists booed and groaned as de Blasio listed the five defendants, which he said were the largest investor-owned fossil fuel companies as measured by contributions to global warming: BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell.
The lawsuit seeks to recover the billions needed to fund climate change resiliency measures necessary to protect the city, its property, and its residents from the effects of climate change.
NY was badly rattled by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and faces costs escalating into the tens of billions of dollars in order to protect low-lying areas such as lower Manhattan and the area around JFK airport from being inundated by further severe storms fueled by rising sea levels and atmospheric warming.
"As climate change continues to worsen, it's up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making NY safer and more resilient", de Blasio said.
ExxonMobil spokesman Scott Silvestri says the company has made good faith attempts to address climate change. A Shell spokesman said climate change is a complex issue that should not be addressed by the courts. De Blasio's team hopes that the other funds will join, too.
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"As climate change continues to worsen", de Blasio said, "it's up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making NY safer and more resilient".
"We are going after those who have profited", the mayor said.
"Today, after a decades-long pattern of deception and denial by fossil fuel companies, New York City is holding them to account". San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Oakland have done the same. Roughly $5 billion is now invested in 190 fuel companies, the city said, claiming that its reallocation of funds represents "the most significant divestment efforts in the world to date". They say the divestment is the largest of any municipality in the U.S.to date.
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.
Philanthropies have included the Wallace Global Fund and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, notable because the late John D. Rockefeller grew his wealth as an oil baron. The Empire State's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is investigating whether the company misled investors about the risks climate change posed to its long-term business.
Environmental leaders, like activist and author Naomi Klein, applauded the city's moves. They said they will submit a joint resolution to pension fund trustees to begin analyzing ways to divest from fossil fuel owners "in a responsible way that is fully consistent with fiduciary obligations".