New York City Takes Bold Steps to Protect New Yorkers from Climate Impacts and Risks // NYC to Sue Five Major Fossil Fuel Companies and Divest from Fossil Fuels

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2018

Today New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Comptroller Scott Stringer announced that the city is suing five major fossil fuel companies for their contribution to climate change, and that by 2022 the city’s pension funds will divest from fossil fuels.

New York City is suing ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, and ConocoPhillips, five of the largest investor-owned carbon producers. This suit alleges that the defendants are responsible for historical contributions to, and damage from, climate change, as well as claims that the defendants engaged in a sophisticated climate denial effort which misled consumers, investors and the public and exacerbated the climate crisis by delaying meaningful action to reduce emissions.

New York City will become the eighth – and by far the largest – municipality currently suing major fossil fuel producers for their role in the climate crisis. It is the first outside California to do so. In July 2017, Marin County, San Mateo County, and the City of Imperial Beach sued 37 fossil fuel companies for climate impacts related to sea level rise. In September, San Francisco and Oakland filed similar suits against the five defendants listed above. Finally, in December, both the City and County of Santa Cruz sued several more “Carbon Majors.” Today, despite intimidation tactics from ExxonMobil, New York City joins them.

“Today’s announcements are a watershed in corporate accountability for climate change and a wakeup call to investors that the risks facing fossil fuel companies are real, material, and rapidly growing,” says Carroll Muffett, President of CIEL. “New York City joins a growing list of governments both within and beyond the United States determined to hold Exxon, Shell, and other fossil fuel producers accountable for their role in the climate crisis.”

The decision to divest the city’s largest public pension funds from the 200 companies with the largest fossil fuel reserves (the “Carbon Underground 200”) follows the convergence of two movements. First, the global divestment movement has already attracted over $5.5 trillion dollars of committed funds, ranging from individuals to institutional investors to insurance companies and banks. Second, a series of independent financial analyses have raised significant concerns about the future profitability and viability of fossil fuel companies as alternative technologies get cheaper, consumer sentiment shifts, and governments large and small enact policies to end the dependence on fossil fuels. The additional, urgent financial risks of climate litigation turn those uncertainties into alarm bells.

“Given the growing financial risks to pensions and their beneficiaries, this call to divest is a victory for New York pensioners,” says CIEL Staff Attorney Steven Feit. “Hopefully, this decision will inspire fiduciaries of other pension funds to take action and protect their portfolios, and the beneficiaries who rely on them, from increasingly risky fossil fuel investments before it’s too late.”

Media Contact:
Amanda Kistler, Director of Communications: akistler@ciel.org, 202.742.5832

Notes for editors:

A comprehensive review of the history of climate denial and the legal and evidentiary basis for climate accountability is available at: http://www.ciel.org/news/smoke-and-fumes-2/.

Detailed analyses of the financial implications of climate change for public pension funds, and the resulting legal duties of pension fund fiduciaries, is available at: http://transformtrillions.org/.

A brief summary of the intersection of litigation and financial risk is available at: http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Investors-take-note-climate-suits-are-already-12256614.php.