Global oil producers are in the sights of New York City officials.
Global oil producers are in the sights of New York City officials. Gerald Herbert

NY City takes on fossil fuel industry

NEW York City is hitting out against the fossil fuel industry in two ways - a lawsuit against a number of large oil and gas companies and a promise to divest city funds from the industry.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would seek billions in the lawsuit to recoup money spent by the city for resiliency efforts related to climate change.

The mayor's office said the "resiliency” program could cost the city upwards of $US20 billion ($A25billion) in the near future.

It would include improvements to ageing "physical infrastructure like coastal protections, upgraded water and sewer infrastructure and heat mitigation, but also public health campaigns, for example to help protect residents from the effects of extreme heat” .

"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,” Mr De Blasio said.

The defendants in the city's federal lawsuit are BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. They account for eight per cent of global sea level rise, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a pressing issue for the island of Manhattan.

A BP spokesman declined to comment. A Shell spokesman said climate change was a complex issue that should not be addressed by the courts.

Exxon Mobil's Scott Silvestri said: "Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a global issue and requires global participation and actions.

"Lawsuits of this kind - filed by trial attorneys against an industry that provides products we all rely upon to power the economy and enable our domestic life - simply do not do that.”

New York's lawsuit, filed in federal court follows similar litigation filed by Californian cities San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Cruz.

The lawsuit followed the city's announcement that it plans to divest $US5 billion ($AU6.25 billion) in its pension funds from fossil fuel companies.

The total in the pension fund is $189 billion ($AU236 billion).

According to the mayor's office, it is the largest commitment to divestment away from fossil fuels by any sub-national government in the US.

"Safeguarding the retirement of our city's police officers, teachers and firefighters is our top priority, and we believe that their financial future is linked to the sustainability of the planet,” city Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a statement.

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