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New York City Sues Oil & Gas Industry to Recover the Costs of Climate Change Damages

The City’s lawsuit marks a tipping point for climate litigation in the U.S. and abroad

Washington, DC —

New York City today filed a game- changing lawsuit against five major oil and gas companies to recover the costs of damages from climate change. The city also announced its intention to divest itself from the fossil fuel industry, a huge victory for the divestment movement. The news comes just one day after ExxonMobil launched an attack in a Texas court against coastal communities in California that sued Exxon and others for climate impacts last year.

Below you’ll find a statement from Richard Wiles, Executive Director of the Center for Climate Integrity, and Ken Adams, the Center’s Coordinating Counsel.

Richard Wiles, Executive Director of the Center for Climate Integrity:

“Climate change is potentially more cataclysmic and expensive than any problem ever faced by humanity. Yet in one very important way climate change is no different than any other environmental issue: the polluters have to pay for the damages they have caused.

The lawsuit filed today by New York City marks an important tipping point for climate litigation and accountability. We applaud Mayor de Blasio for his leadership and expect that other cities will follow suit.”

Ken Adams, Coordinating Counsel for the Center for Climate Integrity:

“There is no dispute about the fact that fossil fuels are the principal cause of global warming.  There is no dispute about that fact that global warming is causing climate changes, which are battering coastal communities more and more each year. Who is going to pay for the damage? The cost estimates are in the tens of billions of dollars in some states.

We all learned in kindergarten that when you make a mess, you apologize and help clean it up. These lawsuits are simply insisting that Exxon and its four co-defendants, who have earned trillions of dollars of profits from fossil fuel products, pay their fair share of the cost of dealing with the damage they knew full well their products would cause.”  

Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

The polluter pays principle goes back to Plato and applies to Exxon and other fossil fuel companies for their climate pollution. The bill for climate change is coming due and can’t be fob off to unsuspecting taxpayers.

Cities from New York to New Delhi are already starting to pay billions to defend against the climate damages caused by fossil fuel pollution, and they need to follow the example of New York and California and use the courts to find climate justice.