New York City has filed a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against five top oil companies for their "contributions to global warming" as part of a bid to divest fossil fuel investments from its US$189billion public pension funds over the next five years.
The lawsuit – against BP Plc, Chevron Corp, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell Plc – follows similar lawsuits filed last year by San Francisco and other Californian cities seeking billions of dollars in damages caused by rising sea levels.
"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 New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday, the Guardian reports.
"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."
The lawsuits are the latest legal challenges against oil companies over climate change and come as the firms are searching for new business models amid growing pressure from governments and consumers for cleaner energy.
Chevron and Exxon said the lawsuits only serve special interests. ConocoPhillips declined to comment, and neither BP nor Shell could immediately be reached.
Exxon this week hit back against the California lawsuits in a filing with a Texas state court, pointing out that none of the cities disclosed such risks to bond buyers and arguing the lawsuits were politically motivated and linked to cases brought by the states of New York and Massachusetts.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he plans to halt future fossil fuel investments in the state's public employee pension fund.