NYC Pension System to Divest $5 Billion from Fossil Fuels

NYC Pension System to Divest $5 Billion from Fossil Fuels

NY has announced unprecedented plans to divest the city's pension funds from fossil fuels within the next five years.

On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced that his administration was stepping up to lead the fight against climate change. The mayor said oil companies intentionally misled the public about the links between their industry and climate change to protect their bottom lines.

"Sea levels have risen about one foot since 1900 with much of that rise due to climate change, the most powerful storms are becoming more frequent, and flooding is becoming more frequent and intense".

Climate advocates hailed what they say is a "watershed" moment on Wednesday following two announcements by New York City: that the city would seek to divest its pension funds from fossil fuels within five years, and that it filed suit against five fossil fuel giants for their role in driving the climate crisis.

In fact, NY remains divided over the best way to advocate for better climate policies. "The announcements underscore the enormous financial risk facing Exxon and other fossil fuel companies in an era of energy transition and accelerating litigation". "And this was a tragedy that was wrought by the actions of the fossil-fuel companies".

"ExxonMobil welcomes any well-meaning and good faith attempt to address the risks of climate change", Suzanne McCarron, Exxon's vice president of public and government affairs, wrote.

De Blasio explicitly linked New York's actions to the plethora of lawsuits against the tobacco industry that led in 1997 to the largest corporate legal settlement in USA history: a $246 billion pay-out to all fifty states to fund medical care and smoking prevention programs.

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An Exxon spokesperson said, "reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue and requires global participation and actions", and that "lawsuits of this kind - filed by trial attorneys against an industry that provides products we all rely upon to power the economy and enable our domestic life - simply do not do that".

Climate activists trumpeted the city's efforts. Not that there is anything wrong with the notion of fairness as a goal, but as The New York Times noted in an editorial on that inaugural speech, "h$3 e would benefit...from a dash of humility by remembering that, given the abysmal turnout on Election Day, he won support from only about 16 percent of the city' registered voters".

Legal experts have compared the wave of climate lawsuits to the lawsuits brought against the tobacco industry in the 1990s, which ultimately resulted in a $365.5 billion settlement wherein major tobacco producers agreed to pay into a fund to offset health-related tobacco costs. Hurricane Sandy degraded to a post-tropical storm before hitting the eastern seaboard.

According to the mayor's office, money from the lawsuit will go toward protecting the city, its property, and its residents from the impacts of climate change.

"We're using this moment to send a message to the world", New York Comptroller Scott Stringer said.

Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio received immediate blowback from some of the companies, while winning praise from environmentalists and others. "Taxpayers and impacted communities are right to demand that major fossil fuel companies, which have knowingly made the situation worse, pay their fair share".

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