New York City Announces Plan To Divest From Fossil Fuels

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May. 24 2019, Updated 7:43 a.m. ET

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy took a heavy toll on New York City, knocking out power and transportation, destroying homes, and causing tens of billions of dollars worth of damage. Many areas in New York City are built in low-lying wetlands, including JFK airport. Manhattan is literally an island, and few are outside the reach of rising waters. The Guardian reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio has made fighting climate change a priority in his administration as a way to protect the metropolis.

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The Mayor's office and other city officials announced a plan to divest money set aside for pension funds from fossil fuel companies, with a goal to remove $5 billion in the next five years. In total, the city's five biggest pension funds amount to $189 billion dollars, and where they choose to put that money can be very influential. They're claiming this move is "among the most significant divestment efforts in the world to date."

But they're not stopping with removing money from oil company's funding—de Blasio is taking BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell to federal court. The city will be suing these fossil fuel firms for their contribution to climate destruction. That's pretty exciting news; even the Empire State Building was celebrating:

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

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“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.”

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The case against the fossil fuel companies state that they've imperiled the city and cost an enormous amount of money to taxpayers as New York fights flooding and erosion caused by climate change. The filing says that since the industrial revolution, only 100 companies are responsible for the majority of the greenhouse gas emissions with the five named in their suit as the worst offenders. 

The suit seeks to shift the cost of fighting climate change back onto the corporations that have been causing it, and will examine how much they've known about the destructive effects of their business over the past several decades.

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Bill McKibben, one of the co-founders 350.org, said in a statement that NYC stepping up to the plate in this matter is a huge step in battling fossil fuel emissions.

“New York City today becomes a capital of the fight against climate change on this planet,” explained McKibben. “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.”

New York City is taking a stand, and it is a city that tends to set the fashion. 

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