New York Sues Big Polluters and Divests Pension Funds From Fossil Fuels

12 January, 2018, 03:36 | Author: Sheri Evans
  • New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio will sue fossil fuel companies for climate impacts

The city of NY has announced it will divest from fossil fuels and has filed a climate lawsuit against five energy giants it is accusing of causing pollution.

The city's largest pension funds - New York City Employees' Retirement System and the Teachers' Retirement System - are on board to try to divest by 2022, said Daniel Zarrilli, de Blasio's senior director of climate policy and programs. So the city is suing BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell, the Associated Press reports. The suit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, says "the City seeks to shift the costs of protecting the City from climate change impacts back onto the companies that have done almost all they could to create this existential threat".

NY would be the first major US pension plan to divest from fossil fuel reserve owners, De Blasio and Stringer said in a joint statement.

De Blasio also announced Wednesday that the city's pension funds will divest from fossil fuels, withdrawing about $5 billion from more than 190 fossil fuel companies within five years.

This is in addition to separate legal action by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to hold the industry accountable for misleading the public about climate change. Conoco and BP did not comment.

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"We're going to crunch the numbers and make a plan so that we get New York City's pension funds in the business of making our planet cleaner and greener with our investments, and we're going to do it while maintaining our fiduciary responsibilities", Mr. Stringer said.

The report is the latest in a series by the group critiquing public pension funds focused on environmental, social and governance investing - or what it calls "politics" - rather than maximizing returns.

"To deal with what the future will inevitably bring, the City must build sea walls, levees, dunes, and other coastal armament, and elevate and harden a vast array of City-owned structures, properties, and parks along its coastline", the suit says.

ACCF cited a recent survey from the Spectrem Group, which found that 66 percent of NY retirement system members want managers to focus on maximizing returns and returning the city to fully funded status.

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"Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue that requires global engagement", said Reddall.

When announcing a new city mandate in September that existing buildingscut greenhouse gas emissions, Mayor de Blasio underscored the urgency of addressing climate change.

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.

In 2017, San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Imperial Beach, as well as Santa Cruz County, Marin County, and San Mateo County made an attempt to sue oil companies over the role they play in climate change, but the lawsuit never made any headway.

"It's time for them to start paying for the damage they have done", Mr.de Blasio said at a press conference at the Manhattan Youth Center.

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