"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," said Mayor Bill de Blasio in unveiling the moves.
"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," he said.
In its lawsuit, the city claims defendants BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell knew for years their products were exacerbating climate change and should be held accountable.
In announcing the city's plan to divest about $5 billion from five pension funds for municipal workers New York's comptroller, Scott Stringer, said "Safeguarding the retirement of our city's police officers, teachers and firefighters is our top priority.
"We believe that their financial future is linked to the sustainability of the planet," Stringer said.
New York isn't the only U.S. city to have filed such a lawsuit. Previously, San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Cruz in California filed similar lawsuits.
Shortly after the de Blasio's announcement, representatives of three of the five defendant companies -- Chevron, Shell and Exxon Mobile -- dismissed the move, calling the lawsuit meritless and suggesting federal courts in the U.S. are not the appropriate venue to address climate change.
Photo caption: Avenue C in Manhattan after flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012. Scientists say major hurricanes like Sandy are becoming more frequent due to climate change. (Photo by David Shankbone via Wikipedia Commons)
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