New York City just declared war on the oil industry

Suing five big oil companies for billions in damages.


New York City is the latest — and largest — US city to sue five big oil companies for billions in damages from the impacts of climate change, such as rising seas and extreme weather.

“Seeking to position himself as a national leader against climate change”, the New York Times writes, de Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed that city pension funds would divest $5bn from companies involved in the fossil fuel industry.

“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”, de Blasio said in a statement.

However, he acknowledged that the lawsuit against BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell – which says that the companies were aware for years that burning fossil fuels caused climate change, but hid the conclusions of their scientists – could take years to reach a resolution.

“New York City vaulted to leadership in the battle” against climate change, writes author and campaigner Bill McKibben for the Guardian.

Commenting on the news that New York City is divesting its massive pension fund from fossil fuels, McKibben says “its decision signals the start of a real rout”.

“For one thing, of course, it’s the center of world finance…Its money managers have a well-deserved reputation for excellence,” he writes, “so when city Comptroller Scott Stringer said divestment was necessary to protect the retirement savings of city workers, he implied the obvious: the go-along investors thinking that Exxon is still a blue-chip aren’t doing their homework”.

“New York’s action on Wednesday means, finally, that these companies are being called to account,” McKibben concludes. “Let’s hope it’s not too late.” Meanwhile, a Guardian news piece looks at how New York’s decision could spark a global shift towards divestment.

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