New York City is breaking up with big oil.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer announced Wednesday that they will divest city pension funds from fossil fuel owners within five years, a move that officials say is a first-in-the-nation step.
The city’s five pension funds currently hold about $5 billion in total in fossil fuel investments across 190 fossil fuel companies, according to the mayor’s office.
Officials announced their goal to dump those investments along with the news that the city is filing a lawsuit against five of the largest Big Oil companies, alleging that those businesses were aware of the industry’s contribution to climate change.
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.”
"New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major U.S. city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels,” de Blasio said in a statement. “At the same time, we’re bringing the fight against climate change straight to the fossil fuel companies that knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits.”
New York is currently carrying out a $20 billion plan to combat the effects of climate change and protect New Yorkers from rising seas, stronger storms and more extreme temperatures.
The mayor has also assured residents that the city will continue to commit to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement — even saying that he believes the city can reach higher goals than are outlined in the accord — regardless of the Trump administration’s withdrawal.
Recently uncovered documents make it clear, the mayor’s office said, that the fossil fuel industry was aware of the effects burning such fuels would have on Earth’s atmosphere as far back as the late 1980s.
“As climate change continues to worsen,” de Blasio said, “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.”