Musqueam, Squamish & Tsleil-Waututh Territories/VANCOUVER – A new study released today by World Weather Attribution (WWA) confirms that climate change and fossil fuel use contributed significantly to increased wildfires in Canada this summer. Lawyers at West Coast Environmental Law, representing the Sue Big Oil campaign, say the study bolsters growing calls from BC communities to bring a class action lawsuit against global fossil fuel companies for their fair share of climate damages.
The WWA study, which confirmed that this summer’s extreme fires in Quebec were two times more likely and 20-50% more intense as a result of climate change, is just the latest in a series of scientific reports demonstrating that Canadian wildfire seasons are longer and more dangerous due to climate change.
A May 2023 study published in Environmental Research Letters confirmed that 37% of the area burned in Southwestern Canada and the Western U.S. between 1986-2021 was the result of fossil fuel emissions traced to 88 major fossil fuel and cement companies. Similarly, a 2019 study by University of Victoria researchers found that the 2017 wildfires in BC burnt an area 7-11 times larger than they would have without climate change.
“Scientists keep telling us that our communities are paying the price for oil, gas and coal-fueled climate change, while Shell, Chevron, Exxon and other fossil fuel giants pocket record profits,” said Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law. “Earlier this year, Shell and BP reneged on their promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because they were just making too much money from oil and gas – and now Kelowna and Yellowknife are having to evacuate as a result of wildfires. Until fossil fuel companies are forced to pay for the damage they cause, they’re going to keep making decisions that harm the planet.”
West Coast Environmental Law is the Secretariat of the Sue Big Oil campaign, which is advocating for BC’s local governments to protect their residents from the costs and impacts of climate change through a class action lawsuit against global fossil fuel companies.
Over 50 local and state governments in the U.S. are suing fossil fuel companies for their role in causing climate change, including decades of misinformation campaigns and lobbying against climate action. Most recently, in June the County of Multnomah, Oregon sued fossil fuel companies for 50 billion dollars to recover its costs from the 2021 heat dome and other climate impacts.
“Fiscally responsible Mayors and Council must ask themselves: how can we afford to keep paying 100% of climate costs while the companies that sell the products that cause climate change make massive profits?” warned Gage.
Municipalities are struggling to pay for dramatic climate events like this year’s wildfires, but are also bogged down with less visible climate costs – such as maintenance expenses associated with stormwater systems, roads and other systems. The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates that Canadian local governments should collectively spend $5.3 billion every year to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
There are Sue Big Oil action teams in over a dozen communities around the province. To date the municipalities of Gibsons and View Royal have voted to support a class action lawsuit against fossil fuel companies.
For more information about the Sue Big Oil campaign see www.suebigoil.ca.
Or 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