Wednesday, 26 September, 2018

NY sues fossil fuel majors, plans divestment from pension funds

NY sues fossil fuel majors, plans divestment from pension funds NY sues fossil fuel majors, plans divestment from pension funds
Nellie Chapman | 11 January, 2018, 15:23

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer and other trustees of New York City's $189 billion pension funds on Wednesday announced a goal to divest city funds from fossil fuels within five years.

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".

The complaint said that "the very climate disruption and injuries that Defendants' scientists and consultants warned them about decades ago have now arrived".

The city is seeking damages from BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell, "for the billions of dollars the city will spend to protect New Yorkers from the effects of climate change", the mayor's office noted, including "damages to pay for harm that we've already seen and damages that are necessary to address harm we expect to happen over the course of this century".

"ExxonMobil welcomes any well-meaning and good faith attempt to address the risks of climate change".

BP declined comment, and the other three companies did not immediately comment.

New York's lawsuit, filed in federal court follows similar litigation filed by San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Cruz in California.

Exxon Mobil responded to the news of the lawsuit in a blog, arguing that court cases aren't the best way to stop climate change.

"Our industry has led the way in reducing U.S. carbon emissions to their lowest levels in almost 25 years due to the increased use of clean and abundant natural gas to deliver reliable electricity, " API New York Executive Director Karen Moreau said in a statement.

ExxonMobil's corporate media relations manager, Scott J. Silvestri, said in a prepared statement that "lawsuits of this kind" are "filed by trial attorneys against an industry that provides products we all rely upon to power the economy and enable our domestic life".

Last month, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to have the state pension funds also divest from fossil fuel investments.

Clara Vondrich of the DivestInvest campaign says hundreds of institutional investors managing assets of over $5.5 trillion have taken their money out of fossil fuels. He and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli are creating an advisory committee to examine the way to proceed with divestment.

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". The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, notable for its links to the past oil wealth of John D Rockefeller, has also sought to divest.

The American Petroleum Institute has previously said the divestment movement is misguided.

Linda Kelly, senior vice-president and general counsel of the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group, called the lawsuit a stunt.

The field of climate attribution science is rapidly advancing and we now know, for example, that emissions traced to the companies named in the city's suit have contributed more than eight percent of global sea level rise and over nine percent of global temperature rise.

Environmental leaders, like activist and author Naomi Klein, applauded the city's moves. "The mightiest city on the planet has now sort of walked into a real fight with the richest and most irresponsible industry on the planet", he said.