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West Coast reacts: Toronto to investigate Big Oil’s responsibility for climate costs

Friday, April 26, 2019

VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – Environmental lawyers are delighted that City of Toronto staff will examine how the city’s massive climate change-related costs can be recovered from the fossil fuel industry.

A vote on Thursday by the City’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee instructs staff to start exploring climate costs and ways to recover those costs. Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, described the vote as an important precedent for municipal councils across Canada, stating:

“Local governments, big and small, are struggling to raise the funds they need to spend now to prepare for and prevent tomorrow’s floods, wildfires, storms and other climate disasters. Taxpayers will be on the hook for many of those costs, but fiscally responsible officials will want to examine all options to ensure that Saudi Aramco, Exxon Mobil and other global fossil fuel companies also take some responsibility for the harm that their products are inflicting on Canadian communities.”

“While Canada’s local governments can, and must, do more to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, we cannot solve the climate crisis by ourselves. The number one thing Canadian communities can do is to challenge the assumption that global oil, gas and coal giants can continue to make massive profits and expand their production of fossil fuels without taking any financial responsibility for the harm their products cause.”

“Fossil fuel giants knew in the 1960s that their products would cause climate change and these types of massive costs. They had the technology and expertise to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions – in many cases holding patents on solar and low-emissions technology. But it was more profitable to lobby against climate action than to provide products that could have helped us avoid a hotter planet. Canadian communities can challenge that type of bad economics by demanding that these companies pay a fair share of local climate costs.”

West Coast Environmental Law, along with a growing coalition of community groups, has been pressing local governments in BC to explore all options to recover climate costs from global fossil fuel companies. To date, 21 BC communities have sent “Climate Accountability Letters” to 20 fossil fuel companies that are responsible for almost 30% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. The Councils of the cities of Victoria and Vancouver have both indicated that they are exploring possible litigation against fossil fuel companies.

In the United States over a dozen lawsuits have been filed by local governments and one state to recover climate-related costs. In addition, a court case in Germany filed by a Peruvian community and a human rights complaint in the Philippines have targeted fossil fuel companies for harm caused by their products and operations.

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For more information, please contact:

Andrew Gage| Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law
250-412-9784, agage@wcel.org

Alexis Stoymenoff | Senior Communications and Engagement Specialist, West Coast Environmental Law
604-684-7378, ext. 228, astoymenoff@wcel.org