New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio [official website] on Wednesday announced a lawsuit [complaint] against BP, Chevron Corporation, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Royal Dutch Shell [corporate websites] for their role in climate change.
NY is now carrying out a $20 billion plan to combat the effects of climate change and protect New Yorkers from rising seas, stronger storms and more extreme temperatures.
New York City alleges it has found documents that make it clear the industry knew of the negative effects of burning fossil fuels as far back as the 1980s, but intentionally deceived the public and denied any environmental/societal issues in favor of their profits.
In addition to colder winters and hotter summers, the city says powerful storms are becoming more frequent, making intense floods more common, as sea levels rise.
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy ravaged the New York City metro area, leaving thousands of displaced residents and an estimated $32 billion in damages in its wake. While the lawsuit will take time to resolve, the divestment option could have a more immediate impact, both on fossil fuel companies, and the inhabitants of NYC.
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BP and ConocoPhillips declined to comment. "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". "We understand what climate change does, we've been victims of it", Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, told the press conference.
"Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue that requires global engagement", Chevron said in a statement. And the city wants oil companies to pitch in - accusing the industry of knowing the harms of fossil fuels even as companies profited from them.
The decision "puts New York City in a position of national leadership and is an important move towards achieving climate justice for communities on the frontline of the crisis", Yeampierre predicted. The City has already set up a US$20bn resiliency programme to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
"New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major USA city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels", de Blasio said in a statement.
New York City has filed a lawsuit against five major oil companies for damages the city blames on climate change. The more suits that get filed, the more the market will have to factor in the possibility of fossil fuel companies having to pay out huge settlements in the near to medium term, much as the tobacco companies were forced to in past decades. ExxonMobil has instead responded strongly to the claims by requesting depositions for "potential claims of abuse of process, civil conspiracy, and violation of ExxonMobil's civil rights".
Many investment firms also are withdrawing support for oil and gas projects, including European banking giant BNP Paribas, which last fall said its global financing policy is to no longer include doing business with companies whose principal activity is the "exploration, production, distribution, marketing or trading of oil and gas from shale and/or oil from tar sands".