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NYC is suing the world’s largest fossil fuel companies for causing climate change

Written by
Clayton Guse

New York is expected to be completely screwed over by climate change in the coming decades, and Mayor Bill de Blasio took a step this week to hold some of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies accountable. In a press conference on Wednesday, he announced that the city has filed a lawsuit against five of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies and is working to divest the city’s pension funds from fossil fuel interests. 

“We're going after those who have profited, and what a horrible, disgusting way to profit—a way that has put so many people's lives in danger,” the mayor said. “It's time that they are held accountable.”

The move makes New York the first major city in the country to unilaterally divest its pension funds from fossil fuels. The lawsuit, which targets BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, is also unique. Both were inspired in part by the devastating effects that Hurricane Sandy has had on the city’s infrastructure as well as the billions of dollars worth of improvements necessary to curb the impacts of climate change. 

The city has already invested in a $20 billion program to help fortify its neighborhoods and waterfronts from the worst impacts of climate change, but some experts say that isn’t even close to enough. A report put out by the RPA last fall identified $28 billion worth of needs that were not yet funded. 

From restoring wetlands to building new seawalls to retrofitting outdated infrastructure, a comprehensive plan to curb the effects of climate change on the entire New York metropolitan area is long overdue. De Blasio’s move this week by no means fills that void, but it is being touted as a step in the right direction. 

“The burning of fossil fuels is the single largest contributor to human-caused climate change,” New York City’s senior director of climate policy Daniel Zarrilli said in a statement. “Unfortunately, those most responsible for the damage done to our planet have denied and buried this fact despite knowing it for decades.”

Whether or not those companies end up being held accountable as a result of the lawsuit remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that New York’s infrastructure needs a lot of improvement to keep the city from turning into a modern-day Atlantis.

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