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

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

"Divestment is just one example of politics taking precedence over returns for New York City beneficiaries".

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, shown at his January 1 swearing-in, announced Wednesday that city pension funds would divest from fossil fuel investments. Shares of Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips were down slightly, while Chevron and BP shares were up slightly.

"We're saying simply that this city - which suffered so deeply after Hurricane Sandy - has literally experienced billions and billions of dollars of damage as a result of climate change that these specific companies aided and abetted, and they should pay damages for that, very much the same way that tobacco companies were forced to pay damages for the awful impact that they had knowingly on public health for so many years".

New York City is seeking billions of dollars in damages that will be used to fortify the city against extreme weather, rising seas, and future major storms such as 2012's devastating Hurricane Sandy.

"New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major United States city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels", said Bill de Blasio, New York's mayor.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said the city also would study how to divest the city's civil servant pension funds from fossil-fuel investments, now worth about $5 billion. We are going to lead the fight against climate change as if our lives depended on it.

A BP spokesman declined to comment.

Christiana Figueres, former United Nations climate chief and architect of the Paris climate agreement, added: "The exponential transition toward a fossil-fuel-free economy is unstoppable and local governments have a critical role to play".

Responding to the suit, a representative for Royal Dutch Shell told the Associated Press that climate change is a complex issue that should not be addressed by the courts.

ExxonMobil said in a blog post that lawsuits do not reduce greenhouse gases, while noting that the company believes that the risk of climate change is real and is "committed to being part of the solution".

The two-front attack was promptly pilloried by industry groups as a cynical political stunt, even as it put New York City at the forefront of the environmental movement's campaign to recruit local governments as allies in the climate change fight.

One of the new laws, 1036-A, requires the City to collect information on vacant public and private lots and buildings in areas zoned for residential use and publish the data every five years. This could, however, set off a wave of similar lawsuits due to the presence of stronger climate science and the emergence of fossil fuel industry documents showing how what some companies knew about their climate change contributions.

"The city of NY is taking on these five giants because they are the central actors, they are the first ones responsible for this crisis, and they should not get away with it anymore", he said.

A day before New York's announcement, Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, gave his annual address on the state of the oil industry, and there was a noticeable shift in the message when it came to climate change. "Those lawsuits were crucial to changing the public perception of tobacco and the industry behind it, and that change helped drive new policy", de Blasio said.

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