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New York divests from fossil fuels, files climate lawsuit

#DivestNY victory reverbates around the world as New Yorkers vow to keep up the fight for bold climate action

New York, NY -- Today, following over five years of persistent campaigning from New Yorkers, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the City is moving forward with full fossil fuel divestment. The city’s five pension funds, a combined $191 billion, will divest $5 billion in securities from over 100 fossil fuel reserve owners.

New York’s announcement brings the total number of global divestment commitments to 810 institutions representing more than $6 trillion in assets.

"New York City today becomes a capital of the fight against climate change on this planet. With its communities exceptionally vulnerable to a rising sea, the city is showing the spirit for which it's famous: it's not pretending that working with the fossil fuel companies will somehow save the day, but instead standing up to them, in the financial markets and in court,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org. “Ever since Sandy, New Yorkers understand the risk, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable. Now, thanks to Mayor de Blasio and his team, the city is fighting back, and in ways that will actually matter."

In addition to this multi-billion-dollar hard-won divestment, Mayor de Blasio announced the City is launching a lawsuit against five major oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, and ConocoPhillips for climate damages. With New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman investigating ExxonMobil, and seven municipalities across California fighting similar damage lawsuits, this announcement adds significant momentum to the #ExxonKnew campaign to hold fossil fuel corporations accountable for the role in climate destruction.

"New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “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. 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.”

“Today is a momentous day in the fight against corporate greed exploiting our communities and fueling climate chaos,” said Betámia Coronel, US Reinvestment Coordinator, 350.org. “While the oil-washed White House rolls back protections, New York City has leapt forward in modeling climate leadership. Divesting our city’s pensions from the dirtiest companies is an enormous hard-won first step; holding companies like Exxon accountable for their role in climate deception is next. Today’s announcement is a rallying signal to cities all over the world that the dawn of a fossil free world has arrived.”

This New York City announcement is sending ripples around the world, reinvigorating divestment fights from California to Japan and beyond. The San Francisco pension board is scheduled for a long-awaited divestment vote on January 24.

On January 31, the day after the State of the Union, 350.org is launching Fossil Free US, with leaders including Senator Bernie Sanders, Bill McKibben, Varshini Prakash, and Rev. Lennox Yearwood speaking at a livestreamed event in Washington D.C. to lay out the plan for the climate resistance in 2018 and beyond.

QUOTE SHEET:

Naomi Klein, author and activist, said, “Emanating from the financial capital of the world, the message of today’s historic announcement is unmistakable: investing in fossil fuel companies is a high-risk, bad bet. New York City is now leading cities and states to not only divest from fossil fuel companies but also insist that the corporations that profit from destabilizing our shared planet pay for the mess they knowingly created. As of today, the entire fossil fuel sector finds itself under a cloud of huge potential court-imposed costs, as well as the growing global momentum of investor flight. That means no matter how many oil and coal leases the Trump Administration hands out, the economics of new drilling will make less and less sense. This is very good news.”

Jonathan Westin, Executive Director, New York Communities for Change (NYCC), said, “Climate change is especially destructive to communities of color in the U.S. and globally. It’s time to defund corporations like ExxonMobil and all fossil fuel infrastructure and move rapidly to good jobs in a world powered by 100% renewable energy. The city’s actions announced today are the big, bold action we need to save our collective future from climate destruction.”

Michael Johnson, NYCC member & Sandy Survivor, said, "When Sandy came, I lost everything, so i am so proud that my City will stop financing climate destruction by divesting from oil and gas corporations like Exxon and begin a vital battle for justice in our court system," said Michael Johnson, a member of New York Communities for Change and Sandy survivor from Coney Island. "With Trump taking the federal government backwards, it's especially vital for cities and states to act; This is the type of bold action urgently needed to fight the accelerating climate crisis."

Denise Patel, Coordinator, Divest Invest Network, said, “From global financial capital to a center for climate action, New York City’s leaders have created a watershed moment for the climate movement in a city devastated by Superstorm Sandy just five years ago. Today, under the leadership of Mayor De Blasio, Comptroller Stringer, and Public Advocate Letitia James through her unwavering support and leadership for divestment, New York City is taking aim at the heart of the fossil fuel industry and holding them accountable from the bow of resistance against the Trump Administration. We commend them for this bold move to protect all New Yorkers and the hard-earned pensions of the city’s workers.”

Lyna Hinkel, of 350NYC, said, “While the latest scientific studies confirm that rapid climate change is already upon us, the federal government is aggressively reversing the little progress we've made towards solving the crisis. It is enormously encouraging that on the local level Mayor de Blasio, Comptroller Stringer, and Public Advocate James are taking bold action and leading by example and that their leadership will not only safeguard the retirement income of NYC pensioners, but will opens the floodgates for other cities and states to get on board. Today is a good day for New York City and the rest of the planet.

Greg Young, Gloverville Supervisor and Elected Officials to Protect New York coordinator, said, “On behalf of 220 local officials from 50 counties, we applaud Mayor de Blasio and City Comptroller Stringer for aligning New York City’s investments with its climate leadership by divesting from fossil fuels. Not only is this imperative for climate change, it's necessary to protect pensioners given that fossil fuels and climate change cost billions and threaten the stable future for retirees that pension funds are intended to provide. This sends a clear message that the era of fossil fuels is over, and now state and local governments across the country should follow New York City's example.”

Tom Sanzillo, Former First Deputy State Comptroller and Current Director Finance of Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (ieefa.org), said, "The decision by the Mayor, Comptroller, union leaders and elected officials is a proper exercise of their financial responsibilities as trustees to the City pension systems. Oil and gas stocks were once world leaders. They are now laggards with weak revenues, weak markets for their products and a negative outlook. All three of the industries fail as investments. Industry leaders like ExxonMobil have also offered no turnaround plans to investors preferring instead to frustrate the efforts of independent outside reviewers like Attorney General Schneiderman. The legal actions contemplated by the City are overdue as management attempts to stop legally valid inquiries into corporate affairs is a serious matter worthy of shareholder action."

Christopher Ito, CEO, Fossil Free Indexes, said, "We are pleased that the City of New York is including The Carbon Underground 200(TM) in its divestment plans for NYCERS and TRS. The decision to address the risks and opportunities of a transition to clean energy reflects a growing trend among fiduciaries. FFI welcomes an opportunity to work with the city to implement a strategy that seeks to safeguard the benefits owed to plan participants.”

Carroll Muffett, President, Center for International Environmental Law, said, “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. 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 announcements underscore the enormous financial risk facing Exxon and other fossil fuel companies in an era of energy transition and accelerating litigation. In light of these risks, the decision to divest New York City’s public pensions from the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers by 2022 is a victory for New York pensioners. It is also a clarion call to other pension fund fiduciaries that fossil fuel investments are growing ever more toxic, and that the time left to protect their assets and their beneficiaries is limited.”

Fletcher Harper, GreenFaith, Executive Director, said, “It’s wrong for investors to profit from an industry that has recklessly endangered people and the planet for its own gain, and it’s patently unfair for the industry to shirk responsibility for the harm it has caused. New York City is on the side of the angels with its dual announcement today.”

Dan Sherrell, Campaign Coordinator for NY Renews, said, "We commend Mayor de Blasio’s bold announcement that his office will be suing top fossil fuel companies for the massive harm they’ve caused to New Yorkers' wellbeing and safety, including billions of dollars in damage to the city's infrastructure suffered during Superstorm Sandy – a storm made deadly by climate change. Now we must extend that accountability beyond a single lawsuit, by passing a corporate polluter fee in New York State, so that all fossil fuel companies are made to pay for the true cost of their emissions. In the process, we could generate billions of dollars in revenue every year, to invest in renewable energy development and job creation—a Green New Deal for the Empire State. As Mayor de Blasio takes bold steps to begin holding fossil fuel companies accountable for their role in creating the greatest ecological crisis of our generation, Governor Andrew Cuomo should be taking note. It will be his responsibility to ensure that this ethic of accountability is enshrined at the state level, in the form of a corporate polluter fee."

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., President & CEO of Hip Hop Caucus, said, "Our communities are seeing the impacts of climate change more and more each day. Today, Mayor de Blasio took a necessary and imperative step to protect our communities now and planet for future generations by divesting from the fossil fuels causing climate change. Leaders at all levels of government around the country have the power and need to follow the example of New York City immediately. Superstorm Sandy, Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, massive wildfires -- the urgency to act for the future of a habitable planet has never been greater. The time for action is now and we applaud the Mayor's action today.”


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