Sunset Park

Climate change activists applaud de Blasio fossil fuel move

January 11, 2018 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The city’s environmental protection moves come as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is moving away from buses powered by oil and toward electric-powered vehicles. The B1 bus travels up 86th Street in Bensonhurst three years ago. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas

Climate change activists around the city, including the leader of a Sunset Park group, are praising a decision by the de Blasio administration to divest $5 billion in pension holdings from companies dealing in fossil fuel.

The environmentalists said they are also pleased with an announcement from Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James about the city’s plans to sue five major oil companies over the effects of climate change.

Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of United Puerto Rican Organizations of Sunset Park (UPROSE), said the city’s move away from investing in fossil fuel companies is important because air pollution that is tied to fossil fuel emissions hurts low-income communities. 

“We commend the mayor, comptroller and trustees of the city’s pension funds for their commitment to divest from fossil fuels. We know all too well that low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the greed of the fossil fuel industry and their contribution to climate change,” Yeampierre said in a statement. 

UPROSE was founded in 1966 to combat the negative effects of pollution on communities like Sunset Park.

The decision “puts New York City in a position of national leadership and is an important move towards achieving climate justice for communities on the frontline of the crisis,” Yeampierre predicted.

The lawsuit against BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell seeks damages to enable the city to recoup the costs related to dealing with the effects of climate change.

The court action was announced on Wednesday.

“New York City today becomes a capital of the fight against climate change on this planet,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. “With its communities exquisitely 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. Ever since Sandy, New Yorkers understand the risk, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable.”

The city currently spends millions of dollars dealing with the effects of disasters caused by climate change, according to writer and activist Naomi Klein, author “No Is Not Enough” and co-founder of The Leap.

“Right now, the tremendous costs of climate disruption are socialized. The public is stiffed with ballooning bills from mega-disasters and the most vulnerable communities are suffering the worst impacts. By suing these five oil majors who knowingly deepened the climate crisis, New York City is taking a game-changing first step in reversing this perverse injustice —  many other cities and states are sure to follow. Today’s double announcement is a reminder that fossil fuel divestment isn’t just a moral decision: it meets the highest standards of fiduciary responsibility as well. In a rapidly warming world, oil, gas and coal stocks are simply too high risk,” Klein stated.

“The effects of climate change are here, and they have been devastating,” said Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard. 

Eddie Bautista, executive director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, said the divestment from highly profitable fossil fuel companies is well worth the price. 

“Frontline communities of color and the Global South are disproportionately vulnerable to the ravages of climate change have long advocated for divestment commitments that reduce our complicity with terracide. As someone with a small city pension, I can also state unequivocally my financial future is inextricably bound to this planet’s future,” he said in a statement.