We can demand accountability from the fossil fuel industry in a variety of ways. If necessary, BC communities can demand accountability through the courts.
Fossil fuel companies have long managed to avoid a conversation about their role in causing climate change. If BC communities file a class action lawsuit, we will force an important public conversation – and ask the courts to ensure that the world’s largest climate polluters can no longer profit from activities that cause so much harm.
We’ve exhaustively researched possible climate cases under Canadian law, and are willing to share our research with the lawyers for interested local governments. Here’s the broad outline of the case we invite BC’s local governments to bring (with the support of their residents):
|A class action||Together we are stronger. A class action is a joint lawsuit (brought on behalf of multiple parties) that would allow the province’s local governments to settle key questions of fossil fuel company responsibility for climate change. In addition, BC’s class action rules (unlike some other provinces) also protect the parties from having to pay the other side’s legal fees if they lose.|
|Brought by local governments||Local governments are well placed to sue for climate-related damage. They incur direct climate-related costs in order to perform their legal responsibilities and protect their citizens. In our view, this gives them “standing” (or the right to appear in court) to sue for those costs.|
|In nuisance||We recommend suing in both private and public nuisance. Private nuisance is based on unreasonable interference with the property of the local governments. Public nuisance is based on unreasonable interference with our common right to a healthy global atmosphere.|
|For climate adaptation costs||Climate adaptation refers to the cost of preparing our communities for climate impacts – for instance, building new dikes to protect shorelines from rising seas. Adaptation costs are incurred to prepare infrastructure and services to withstand changes in the climate over a 30 to 50+ year time-frame, based on the best available climate science about how a region is changing. As a result, it is easier to directly link these costs to climate change than many other climate impacts. This is not to say that other climate cases could not be brought, but a focus on adaptation goes a long way to solving the problem of “causation,” which is often seen as a barrier to climate litigation. As such, and it makes sense to focus on adaptation costs in an initial lawsuit.|
|Against fossil fuel companies||We propose an initial lawsuit against several of the world’s largest fossil fuel polluters. For example, five companies (Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Saudi Aramco, British Petroleum and Shell) are, according to precedent-setting research, responsible for approximately 14% of historic greenhouse gas emissions. We propose only claiming each company’s fair share based on that percentage, limiting their ability to add other companies as co-defendants. The argument for their liability is particularly strong for the period during which the companies knew that their products were causing climate change.|
Ask your local government about whether it will participate in a class action to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the climate harm they are causing your community.