Highlands targets big name oil companies

Environmental law association applauds Highlands’ efforts

Rick Stiebel/News Gazette staff

A letter from the District of Highlands to fossil fuel giants holding them accountable for the cost of climate change has earned instantaneous accolades from West Coast Environmental Law.

A letter of praise from West Coast Environmental Law – released the same day the Highlands sent its letter – was in response to a climate accountability letter the Highlands sent to 20 of the world’s fossil fuel companies earlier this month.

Highlands Mayor Ken Williams said the need to address the harm caused by fossil fuel is long overdue. “When you consider the forest fires and floods we’ve had in the province this year, it’s hard not to make the connection,” Williams said. “We’re feeling enormous effects. We need to raise awareness, the conversation needs to take place. More and more people are paying attention. Steps need to be taken to address this.”

The letter seeks fair compensation from the companies for climate costs associated with preparing for wildfires, droughts and other climate change impacts.

The letter states, in part, that “we expect your industry to take cradle to grave responsibility for your product – and that starts by taking responsibility for its effects in the atmosphere and the resulting harm to communities.”

Williams is urging other municipalities to give serious thought to the situation and take steps to pressure the oil companies. “Oil companies already realize carbon is a liability,” he said. “The fact they’re looking at ways to take carbon out of the atmosphere shows that.”

With regards to a carbon tax, Williams pointed out that the Canadian government subsidizes the oil companies to the tune of $3.3 billion a year. “That’s like the anti-carbon tax,” he added.

Andrew Gage, staff counsel for West Coast Environmental Law, said in a statement that fossil fuel pollution caused by these companies’ products presently represents about 30 per cent of human-caused gasses in the world’s atmosphere.

“Everyone should be concerned by the rising tide of climate change facing our communities, from flooding to wildfires, we can’t just assume that taxpayers will always pay … As long as the fossil fuel industry believes that taxpayers, and not their shareholders, will pay the costs of fossil fuel pollution, they have no incentive to move toward a sustainable future.”

Gage said he believed the letter from the Highlands was the first of its kind “anywhere in the world” and urged communities everywhere to follow the District’s lead.

The Highlands letter was in response to a request in January from 55 organizations across the province that asked all of B.C.’s local governments to consider a joint class action against fossil fuel companies for a portion of their climate costs.


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