Who is liable for the climate crisis? Canadians are going to court to find out

Mounting legal challenges are expected both at home and abroad.

Date: Monday, June 19, 2023
Complete Article: CBC News


In a Montana courtroom, a young woman’s eyes welled with tears as she explained how drought, wildfires and floods have put her family’s cattle ranch at risk. Held is one of 16 young people suing the state for failing to take action to curb global warming.

The climate change lawsuit, which continues in court this week, is the first to reach trial among dozens filed across the U.S. in the last decade. Such harrowing, personal accounts could soon be heard more often in other jurisdictions, including in Canada.

“There are climate cases around the world now and they’re developing at record speeds,” said Nathalie Chalifour, a law professor at the University of Ottawa. “Canadian courts can look to see what other courts are deciding and that can be really helpful because the issues presented by climate lawsuits are really novel.”

In Canada, there have been 35 climate-related legal challenges, according to Columbia University’s climate litigation database. One of the most watched cases among them was brought forward in Ontario — and has yet to be settled. Seven young people filed a lawsuit against the Ontario government in 2019, alleging its climate plan fails to protect them and future generations.

While already common in the United States, Chalifour said cases against corporations are likely to be put to the test in Canada, too. She pointed to a looming lawsuit in British Columbia by municipalities against oil companies. [That’s the Sue Big Oil lawsuit.]

“There’s going to be potentially more responsibility and accountability for the damages that flow from greenhouse gas emissions that tip us over the brink.”

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