Growing B.C. effort wants fossil fuel companies to pay for climate impacts

More communities joining Sue Big Oil campaign as Saanich and CRD explore the idea

Date: March 8, 2024
Complete Article: The Nelson Star

This article in the Nelson Star provides an excellent introduction to, and overview of, the Sue Big Oil campaign. 


West Coast Environment Law’s Sue Big Oil campaign calls on B.C. local governments to join forces against fossil fuel giants in a future class-action suit to recover a share of climate-impact costs communities are paying.

A growing list of communities have been signing on.

Sue Big Oil aims to enlist communities with a combined population of 500,000, or roughly 10 per cent of B.C.’s population before the class-action suit would be brought forward.

[Andrew Gage, one of WCEL’s staff lawyers,] said communities are raising taxes to deal with essential municipal infrastructure being overwhelmed by climate change and the resulting damage from wildfires, drought and sea level rise. The lawyer also argues there’s an economic disconnect at play where those making the products causing climate change are being rewarded, while communities are facing a “growing tidal wave of climate costs.”

Those increased costs for taxpayers also come as oil and gas companies operating in Canada have amassed record profits in recent years while rolling back some of their environmental commitments. Suncor’s CEO, for example, said last year the Calgary-based company – which returned a record $7.7 billion to shareholders in 2022 – was too focused on the energy transition and would refocus on its oilsands assets.

“That’s the type of decision you’d expect to see when a company and their investors believe they will never be held responsible for the harms they’re causing,” Gage said.

Hidden from the public view, the industry’s scientists accurately predicted environmental impacts being seen today and acknowledged climate change was real and human-caused.

“It’s difficult to overstate just how both cynical but also manipulative these companies have been – on a level similar to what we saw with tobacco or various other manufacturers who were desperate to keep people hooked on their products,” Gage said.

Seeing as tobacco, opioid and asbestos corporations have been held liable in court for the harms of their products, Gage sees it as not a matter of if the same happens for big oil, but when.

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