The Capital Regional District board on Dec. 13 voted to explore joining other B.C. communities in trying to recoup climate impact costs from “Big Oil” companies through a class-action lawsuit.
CRD staff will now look into the feasibility, merits and role of the CRD joining the proposed legal action.
The West Coast Environment Law group’s Sue Big Oil campaign calls on B.C. local governments to join forces against fossil fuel giants. The campaign hopes the suit would recover a share of climate-related costs being paid by communities.
View Royal, Squamish and Gibsons have committed to supporting the lawsuit.
The concept was brought to the CRD by director Gary Holman, who told this paper last month that he wanted to see what staff have to say about joining the lawsuit before he takes a position.
However, the Salt Spring Island politician said climate change has already impacted his community as roads are increasingly washing out during heavy rain events and longer drought periods are stressing water reservoirs.
“There’s absolutely no question (more severe weather is) creating huge costs for individuals, businesses and taxpayers,” Holman said. “Large companies that have benefited hugely, and continue to benefit hugely, should play a role in mitigating those costs.”
The Sue Big Oil campaign says fossil fuel firms had data half a century ago showing their operations would cause climate change and the resulting extreme weather. It argues that instead of taking action, those companies lobbied against environmental initiatives and actively cast doubt about climate science.
“These multinational companies spent millions to deceive, deny and distract us on their way to billions in profit by preventing action on climate change,” the campaign’s website says.
The CRD board unanimously approved exploring the impacts of joining the lawsuit without any debate on the topic, but members of the public who attended the Dec. 13 meeting spoke in support of the move.
“It would be fiscally irresponsible for the CRD to continue passing the costs of climate change onto taxpayers without taking basic steps to try to recover those costs from global fossil fuel companies,” Andrew Gage, a lawyer with West Coast Environment Law, said in an address to the board.
He said a wide range of CRD services will be impacted by climate change and without additional revenue streams to pay for that, the board will be faced with raising taxes, cutting services or leaving residents vulnerable.
Another speaker said the fossil fuel industry’s conduct at December’s COP28 meeting in Dubai showed its intent on preventing any decrease in production.
“In this scenario, suing big oil may be the only solution that provides the economic resources needed to financially protect CRD residents,” said Aiden Byrne.