Highlands District asks fossil fuel companies to pay fair share of climate costs

VICTORIA, BC – The West Coast Environmental Law Association applauds the District of Highlands, a Southern Vancouver Island municipality, for sending a “Climate Accountability Letter” to 20 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies. The letter, sent today, demands that these companies pay a fair share of the climate costs suffered by the District, such as costs to prepare for wildfires, drought and other climate change impacts.

The letter explains to the fossil fuel industry:

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 District also wrote to other local governments in the Capital Region to encourage them to send similar letters. To West Coast’s knowledge, the Highlands letter is the first of its kind sent by a local government anywhere in the world.

“Highlands acted responsibly by ensuring that climate costs to deal with increased wildfire and drought risks are not simply passed on to taxpayers, instead recognizing the role of the fossil fuel industry in increasing these costs,” said Andrew Gage, Staff Counsel and head of West Coast’s Climate Law in our Hands initiative. “As long as the fossil fuel industry believes that taxpayers, and not their shareholders, will pay the costs of fossil fuel pollution, they have no incentive to move towards a more sustainable future.”

The list of companies that received the letter includes oil giants such as Chevron, Exxon and Shell. Fossil fuel pollution caused by the operations and products of these 20 companies represents about 30% of human-caused greenhouse gases in the global atmosphere today, Gage noted.

“Everyone should be concerned by the rising tide of climate costs facing our communities. From flooding to wildfires, we can’t just assume that taxpayers will always pay,” said Anjali Appadurai, Climate Law in our Hands Campaigner. “Communities everywhere must follow Highlands in questioning the right of fossil fuel companies to make hundreds of billions of dollars extracting oil, gas and coal without also taking responsibility for the harm caused by those products.”

West Coast Environmental Law was one of more than 55 organizations from across BC that wrote to all of BC’s local governments in January asking them to write climate accountability letters to the fossil fuel industry. These organizations also asked BC municipalities to consider a joint class action against fossil fuel companies for a portion of their climate costs.

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For more information, please contact:

Andrew Gage, Staff Counsel
250-412-9784, agage@wcel.org

Anjali Appadurai, Campaigner
604-328-6443, anjali_appadurai@wcel.org

To learn more about Climate Law in our Hands, see www.climatelawinourhands.org.