Payback Time? What the internationalization of climate litigation could mean for Canadian oil and gas companies, by Andrew Gage, Staff Counsel at West Coast, and University of British Columbia professor Michael Byers, analyzes scenarios in which the legal landscape concerning climate damages litigation could suddenly and dramatically change.
According to the study, the most serious risk to Canadian companies is not litigation in Canada. Because the impacts and causes of climate change are global, climate damages litigation could take place in, and apply the laws of, any of the countries where damage occurs. These countries may also choose to adopt new laws clarifying the legal rules around climate damages litigation, much as Canadian provinces did to facilitate tobacco litigation. As a result, large-scale greenhouse gas producers and their shareholders are exposed to significant legal risks that will only grow into the future.
Payback time? then considers the total potential liability of five oil and gas companies currently trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange—EnCanada, Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources, Talisman, and Husky—and findsthese five companies could presently be incurring a global liability as high as $2.4 billion per year for their contribution to climate change. The study concludes that given the sheer number and diversity of potential venues for litigation, and the growing interest in pursuing it, civil liability for large-scale green house gas emitters is extremely likely, particularly as the costs associated with climate change rise.