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Vancouver Island, Coastal Communities to discuss suing fossil fuel industry

Friday, April 12, 2019

POWELL RIVER, BC – Tla’amin Territory – Local government officials meeting in Powell River this weekend will grapple with how taxpayers can afford to pay for a rising tide of climate change costs. Elected representatives will discuss a resolution exploring the idea of a class action lawsuit against global fossil fuel giants like Chevron and Shell to recover a share of those costs.

Resolution 17, put forward by the City of Victoria to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC), would ask the Union of BC Municipalities to take a serious look at local government litigation to recover climate costs. The resolution also asks the Province of BC to enact laws to help local governments bringing such cases.

Andrew Gage, a Staff Lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, and Don Fodor, a resident of Powell River with UnspOILed Coast, will be at the AVICC meeting to support Resolution 17 and to discuss the idea of litigation and legislation aimed at recovering local climate costs from fossil fuel companies.

“The climate crisis is the direct result of bad economics: the people who benefit most from the fossil fuel economy by selling oil, gas and coal expect to go on making big profits, while our communities pay the price in the form of climate impacts like forest fires and flooding,” said Gage. “Chevron and ExxonMobil knew about the risks of climate change in the 1960s. But instead of taking action, they actively worked to undermine climate action that could have provided alternatives to the fossil fuel economy and avoided massive harm to communities around the world.”

Gage argues that litigation against global fossil fuel companies – as well as similar actions taken by local governments to insist that fossil fuel companies pay their fair share of climate costs – can push those companies, and their investors, to do more to rethink the future of energy.

“Suing fossil fuel companies can give them the push they need to get out of the way of real climate action and to start investing in new energy sources,” said Gage, noting that fossil fuel companies like Chevron and Saudi Aramco are already warning their investors to consider the risks posed by lawsuits based on their contribution to climate change. “We are starting to see examples of Shell and ExxonMobil trying to position themselves as climate leaders, apparently as a result of the risks of being sued.”

In the longer term such litigation could help recover costs that taxpayers cannot afford.

“Powell River is a coastal community, and much of our city waterfront is going to face erosion or flooding from rising seas if we don’t act,” said Fodor. “We can’t afford the full costs of sea walls and building new infrastructure, so our elected officials need to examine every option to get the fossil fuel industry to take responsibility for their share, for the true costs of their products.”

Since 2017, twenty-one communities across British Columbia have voted to send letters to 20 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies asking them to take responsibility for climate change harm caused by their products. The operations and products of those 20 companies have caused almost 30% of human-caused greenhouse gases in the global atmosphere today.

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For more information, please contact:

Andrew Gage | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law
250-380-8207, agage@wcel.org

Don Fodor | UnspOILed Coast
604-483-6607, donfodor@shaw.ca

Click here for our backgrounder: Suing Fossil Fuel Giants – an Introduction for Local Governments