Back to top

Momentum builds in Whistler, Squamish, Vancouver to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for climate change

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Union of BC Municipalities to vote on sending letter to Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil 

VANCOUVER, Coast Salish Territories – Faced with wildfires, loss of snow pack, drought, flooding and other rising climate change costs, elected officials in Whistler and Squamish voted on Tuesday, September 4th to send “Climate Accountability Letters” demanding that 20 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies pay their fair share of climate costs.

The role of fossil fuel companies in causing local climate impacts has also become an issue in Vancouver’s election campaign, with OneCity candidates on Wednesday pledging to take legal action, if elected, to recover costs from fossil fuel companies, modelled on lawsuits brought by New York City and other U.S. communities.

Environmental organizations are hopeful that this momentum will continue into next week’s Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) conference, when local government elected officials from across the province will vote on whether to send UBCM’s own Climate Accountability Letter to fossil fuel companies on behalf of BC municipalities (UBCM Resolution B128). Whistler’s Climate Accountability Letter vote is particularly timely, as the Resort Municipality is hosting the UBCM.

“Local governments and candidates cannot ignore the fact that wildfires, droughts, flooding and other impacts made worse by climate change are increasingly costing them and their taxpayers,” said Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law. “Local governments face a choice between, on the one hand, fiscal negligence in just assuming that taxpayers will bear the full burden of these rising costs alone and, on the other, seeking to ensure that fossil fuel companies pay their fair share of climate costs.”

“We are facing a climate crisis and we need to act now. Squamish faces flooding from rising sea levels and the risk of wildfires, while Whistler, as a ski destination, has to grapple with loss of snow,” said Tracey Saxby, Co-Founder of My Sea to Sky, an environmental organization that appeared before Squamish council on Tuesday asking that it send a Climate Accountability Letter.

“Squamish residents are already paying for the costs of planning for and preparing for those impacts, and right now 100% of those costs fall to us as taxpayers. It’s crucial that we start asking that the companies that have profited most from causing climate change begin to pay their fair share. These companies have known since the 1960s that their products would cause climate change and rather than working for cleaner energy systems, they chose to lobby against climate action,” Saxby said.

With the addition of Squamish and Whistler, 12 municipalities, 1 regional district and the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities have now voted to send Climate Accountability Letters to major fossil fuel companies. The OneCity candidates may be the first candidates in BC to campaign on holding fossil fuel companies accountable for climate costs.*

–30–

For more information, please contact:

Andrew Gage | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law
250-412-9784 or 250-380-8207 (cell), agage@wcel.org 

Anjali Appadurai | Communications and Engagement Specialist, West Coast Environmental Law
604-328-6443, anjali_appadurai@wcel.org

Tracey Saxby | Co-Founder, My Sea to Sky
604-892-7501 (cell), tracey@myseatosky.org

For a list of municipalities that have sent Climate Accountability Letters, see www.wcel.org/campaign-update.

*- So far as we are aware, no other Vancouver local government candidates have taken public positions on holding fossil fuel companies accountable for local climate impacts.


UPDATE: On Sept. 14th, Resolution B128 was narrowly voted down (52-48%) at the UBCM conference, with many BC communities expressing interest in sending Climate Accountability Letters.