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Environmental lawyers applaud Victoria’s recommendation of a lawsuit against fossil fuel companies

Friday, January 18, 2019

VICTORIA, Territory of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations – A resolution passed by Victoria Council late last night (8-1) challenges BC municipalities to work together on a class action lawsuit against global fossil fuel companies for a share of BC climate costs. Lawyers at West Coast Environmental Law endorse the idea of a lawsuit to recover climate costs and encourage other local governments to work with Victoria to make it a reality.

The Victoria Council resolution:

  • seeks legal advice in relation to a letter from Shell concerning its responsibility for climate-related costs;
  • instructs staff to track the City’s climate-related costs; and
  • asks the Union of BC Municipalities to:
    • examine the possibility of a class action by BC local governments against fossil fuel companies for climate costs; and
    • ask the Province of BC to enact legislation to support such litigation by local governments.

“Victoria understands that BC’s communities face a rising tide of climate costs and cannot simply pass 100% of those costs on to taxpayers,” said Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer. “Responsible local governments must examine all possible ways to ensure that Chevron and ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies join our communities in paying their share of the harm caused by their products.”

A 2017 poll commissioned by West Coast Environmental Law and conducted by Justason Market Intelligence found that 63% of British Columbians strongly or somewhat support litigation by their local government against fossil fuel companies to recover a share of climate costs.

“Global fossil fuel companies have the expertise and resources to shift our society rapidly away from fossil fuels and to help solve the climate crisis,” said Gage. “Unfortunately, until these companies are made to pay a share of the costs of climate change, they have every incentive to lobby against climate action and block the development of low-emission technology while leaving it to our communities to pay to clean up the mess.”

Victoria is one of 16 local governments that have voted to send Climate Accountability Letters to 20 global fossil fuel companies, which are collectively responsible for almost 30% of human caused greenhouse gas emissions (through their operations and products). The City is the first to pass a resolution endorsing litigation by local governments against these companies, although West Vancouver has previously called on the Province to enact legislation to support climate litigation.

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For more information, please contact:

Andrew Gage | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law
250-412-9784, agage@wcel.org

For more information on action taken by BC local governments see www.wcel.org/campaign-update.