Environmental law advocacy group calls for BC to sue fossil fuel companies

Environmental law advocacy group calls for BC to sue fossil fuel companies | Insurance Business Canada

Environmental law advocacy group calls for BC to sue fossil fuel companies

An environmental law advocacy group has been pushing municipalities in BC to sign on to a class-action lawsuit against major fossil fuel companies to pay for local costs related to climate change.

Lawyer Andrew Gage, staff counsel at West Coast Environmental Law, said that cities should assert their rights and hold polluters accountable for the damage by forcing the companies to pay their “fair share” through the suits.

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“It’s a question of who should be paying for climate change?” Gage told Metro News.

Gage, citing provincial data, said that the municipalities of Metro Vancouver are projected to spend $9.5 billion between now and 2100 to address the issue of rising sea levels.

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“Just last October, the City of Vancouver itself debated whether or not to be looking at an $800 million storm surge protector for False Creek or to increase seawalls for $300- to $400 million. Those are huge expenses and they’re already being debated,” he pointed out.

The sustainability of such projects is questionable, Gage argued, especially when those responsible are allowed to walk away scot-free.

“If taxpayers really have to pay all of that in all communities across Canada and the industry who played a major role in causing this isn’t paying anything beyond the tax dollars any business pays, we have to wonder if that’s sustainable,” he said. “That seems like a very fundamental question that we need answered.”

Gage mentioned that there is a precedent for BC – in September, the US cities of San Francisco and Oakland both filed lawsuits against major fossil fuel companies such as Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell. The lawsuits held the companies liable for the costs related to the construction of sea walls and other measures meant to mitigate the “consequences of climate change and sea level rise” caused by the companies’ production of fossil fuels.

According to Gage, it would be inevitable that courts in Canada would be asked to tackle the same issues.

“I wouldn’t say at this point we have a plaintiff lined up and ready to go or anything like that. But it is something we seriously believe local BC governments should do, and should do sooner rather than later,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we need to have these legal questions sorted or else municipalities and taxpayers will end up paying 100% of the costs of climate change.”

While none of BC’s communities have stepped up to the plate yet, four Vancouver Island municipalities have agreed to send “climate accountability” letters to the 20 largest fossil fuel companies in the world, asking them to pay for local climate costs.

“We expect your industry to take cradle to grave responsibility for your product — and that starts by taking responsibility for its effects in the atmosphere and the resulting harm to communities,” the letter read.

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