Big Apple vs. Big Oil

New York City throws down against the fossil fuel industry

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces pension fund divestment and climate damages lawsuit
Photo: Joe Brusky

The city at the centre of global finance has joined the divestment movement targeting the world’s fossil fuel industries. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this morning that the city will divest $5 billion in securities from fossil fuel reserve owners. The divestment is from the city’s five pension funds, which hold a total of $191 billion.

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"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 author and climate activist Bill McKibben in a press release from

“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."

At the same time as the city’s fossil fuel divestment was made public, Mayor de Blasio announced New York City would be filing a lawsuit against five major oil companies — ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and Shell — for climate damages.

Leading climate activists are heralding today’s announcement by New York City as a historic victory for the fossil fuel divestment movement.

"New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels,” said the mayor in the press release. "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."

Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which flooded many low-lying areas of New York City and left hundreds of thousands without electricity, greatly raised awareness of the threat posed by climate change to the city. Last year, a bestselling novel by science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, New York 2140, depicted the future of a half-submerged Manhattan and included a strong and explicit critique of financial capitalism.

Leading climate activists are heralding today’s announcement by New York City as a historic victory for the fossil fuel divestment movement. In the midst of onslaughts by the Trump administration against environmental protections, this is most welcome news indeed for the U.S. climate movement.

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