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In this Feb. 13, 2015 file photo, stacks and burn-off from the ExxonMobil refinery are seen at dusk in St. Bernard Parish, La. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

New York City is taking a double stand against climate change—first filing a lawsuit against the top five oil companies for their role in global warming, while also attempting to divest billions of dollars’ worth of city funds from fossil fuel interests.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s trustees announced their plan late yesterday. The goal is to divest $5 of $189 billion in pension funds from more than 190 fossil fuel companies within five years’ time. If New York City succeeds, it will be the first major U.S. pension plan to do so.

In addition, the city has filed a lawsuit seeking billions from the five largest fossil fuel companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. The mayor is seeking this money to pay for damages that have already occurred, such as infrastructure concerns after Hurricane Sandy, as well as harm expected to occur in the course of this century as global warming worsens.

“Sandy taught us how destructive weather events exacerbated by climate change can be,” NYC’s press release reads. “Rising sea levels, increasing temperatures and precipitation, and the likelihood of more frequent and intense flooding threaten our neighborhoods and infrastructure while exacerbating many underlying social inequities.”

To adapt to these threats, the city is already implementing an over $20 billion program, but contends more is needed—and that money should come from the organizations that are at least partially accountable for global warming.

New York City alleges it has found documents that make it clear the industry knew of the negative effects of burning fossil fuels as far back as the 1980s, but intentionally deceived the public and denied any environmental/societal issues in favor of their profits.  

“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,” de Blasio said. “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.”

According to the mayor’s office, money from the lawsuit will go toward protecting the city, its property, and its residents from the impacts of climate change. This includes physical infrastructure, like coastal protections, upgraded water and sewer infrastructure, and heat mitigation, but also public health campaigns—such as those to protect residents from the effects of extreme temperatures.

New York’s lawsuit is one of four in the federal court system currently. Three cities in California—San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Cruz—have also filed similar litigation in response to climate change.

Representatives for Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Shell all told the Associated Press that the court system is not the correct venue to address climate change, with a Chevron spokesperson adding that the lawsuit is “meritless.”

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