Twenty local governments ask 20 fossil fuel companies to pay a share of local climate costs

BC environmental organizations are celebrating that 20 communities have now voted to send letters to 20 fossil fuel companies. The groups say BC local governments increasingly see clearly their costs associated with climate change, and the need for global fossil fuel giants like Chevron and Shell to pay a share of those costs.

The City of Courtenay, on northern Vancouver Island, became the 20th local government to vote to send a letter with a unanimous vote on Monday, March 4, 2019. Other recent votes to send letters include the Village of Alert Bay (January 14); the Village of New Denver (January 22) and the North Coast Regional District (January 23).

“These local governments have 20/20 vision when it comes to seeing local climate costs and realizing that the fossil fuel industry must pay a share of these costs,” said Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law. “Solving the climate crisis is going to be impossible if fossil fuel companies continue to believe they can make huge profits, while taxpayers in BC and around the world pay for the harm caused by their products.”

Dogwood’s North Island organizer Dave Mills said, “People in Courtenay feel the same as most British Columbians when it comes to taxes – they are willing to pay their fair share. What they aren’t willing to do is let Big Oil dodge their responsibility. I think it speaks volumes that local politicians are willing to grapple with problems senior levels of government are either ignoring or making worse.”

West Kootenay EcoSociety Executive Director Montana Burgess said, “New Denver is the fourth West Kootenay community to vote to send letters. The risks of landslides, floods and wildfires are very much on the mind of communities in this region – and fossil fuel companies have known for decades that those and other impacts could result from ongoing oil, gas and coal use.”

“Every community across BC needs to start questioning whether their taxpayers can afford to pay 100% of the costs of climate change, while an industry that profits from it pays nothing,” said Anna Barford, Community Organizer with the Georgia Strait Alliance. “And fossil fuel companies and their investors will increasingly hear from British Columbians who think that they need to take responsibility for the harm that they know will result from the products they sell.”

“Fossil fuel companies have deliberately put profits before people and the planet for decades,” said Tracey Saxby, Executive Director of My Sea to Sky. “If fossil fuel companies have to pay their fair share of the costs of climate change, this creates an economic incentive for them to stop opposing climate action and instead use their considerable resources and expertise to develop alternatives, and help solve our collective climate challenge.”

In addition to the 20 letters sent to fossil fuel companies, the City of Burnaby recently wrote to the BC government asking that the Province pass a law to clarify the legal rules for lawsuits against fossil fuel companies for climate costs. This letter comes on the heels of a resolution from the City of Victoria endorsing both litigation and similar legislation.

West Coast Environmental Law, Georgia Strait Alliance, Dogwood BC, My Sea to Sky and West Kootenay EcoSociety are among the dozens of organizations that have pressed local governments to address local climate costs and the responsibility of the fossil fuel industry for a share of those costs.