xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) & səl̓ilwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Territories / VANCOUVER, BC
Yesterday, while debating its 2023 Budget, Vancouver City Council voted to renege on a commitment to attempt to recover a share of the City’s climate change-related costs from global fossil fuel companies. Environmental lawyers at West Coast Environmental Law said that the decision will cost taxpayers, and the residents of Vancouver, dearly, pointing out that a significant portion of the Budget’s 10.7% increase in property taxes arise directly from climate change.
“Yesterday’s vote guarantees that Vancouver residents will pay hundreds of millions as the costs of climate change rise – to save a tiny fraction of that amount in the 2023 Budget – while the corporate polluters most responsible pay nothing,” said Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer. “The Mayor acknowledged last week that the tax increases are driven in part by the need to upgrade sewers and storm drains to deal with climate-fueled storms and rising sea levels. It’s the height of fiscal irresponsibility to let Big Oil off the hook.”
In July 2022, Vancouver Council directed staff to include $1 per resident in the City’s draft 2023 budget to allow the City to work with other BC local governments to file a class action lawsuit against global fossil fuel companies. For reasons that are unclear, these funds were omitted from the budget Council voted on yesterday. Councillor Adriane Carr introduced a motion to put at least a nominal amount of $6600 back into the budget to signal to other local governments that Vancouver would work with them to bring the case. But all members of the ABC party voted against even this nominal amount.
“In any other context, if a careless corporation destroyed city property so that they could make more profits, the City would sue them,” said Fiona Koza, Climate Accountability Strategist. “Big Oil has made astronomical profits selling products that they knew would cause the devastating heat waves, storms and flooding that Vancouver is now dealing with. When governments started working to provide sustainable alternatives, this industry engaged in a massive deception campaign similar to what we saw from the tobacco industry, leaving society dependent on their products. Therefore, these costs do not belong only to Vancouver taxpayers. Global oil, gas and coal companies must pay their fair share.”
“We hear that we’re all responsible for climate change, but apparently Vancouver Council thinks that the oil, gas and coal industries shouldn’t do their part – that Vancouver residents should pay 100% of future heat waves or storms while corporate executives pocket record profits,” said Gage. “28 law professors agree: there is a solid legal basis to hold Shell, Chevron and other global companies accountable for their fair share, but Vancouver won’t protect their taxpayers from these costs.”
“We are disappointed to see the City of Vancouver renege on its commitment to sue Big Oil,” said Koza. “But other local governments across BC increasingly recognize that they cannot afford the rising tide of climate costs. So this lawsuit is going to happen with or without Vancouver.”
West Coast Environmental Law is part of the Sue Big Oil campaign, which launched June 2022, and which calls on BC local governments to work together to bring a class action lawsuit to recoup a share of public costs associated with climate change. It follows the lead of more than 40 local and state governments in the U.S. and elsewhere that are already suing global fossil fuel companies. Polling shows that 69% of British Columbians would like to see their local governments work to sue fossil fuel companies for their share of climate costs as an alternative to taxpayers paying all climate costs.
For more information, please contact:
Andrew Gage | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law
Fiona Koza| Climate Accountability Strategist, West Coast Environmental Law
604-684-7378, ext. 236, firstname.lastname@example.org