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LETTER: CRD is right to hold Big Oil accountable for climate change costs

(Black Press Media file photo)

A recent letter to the editor questioned the CRD’s rationale for considering participation in a class-action suit to recover climate change costs from big oil companies. While I agree with the author that some change to the climate and environment will occur regardless of what is done, this does not remove our agency to determine whether the future will be better or worse.

The Sue Big Oil campaign is built on past legal precedents that found that companies that knowingly cause harm, but deny responsibility, are frequently found liable by courts to pay compensation. Well-known cases involve tobacco producers, narcotic drug producers and chemical companies that produced toxic products such as Roundup.

ALSO READ: CRD to vote on studying impact of joining lawsuit against ‘big oil’ firms

Fossil fuel producers were among the earliest institutions to study climate change and recognized the evolving global risks nearly half a century ago. Instead of working with stakeholders to find solutions they chose to deny the relationship and delay efforts to limit fossil fuel production, a tactic they continue to this day.

In 2021 B.C. experienced more than 600 excess deaths from extreme heat and numerous deaths from wildfires and flooding. Major highways were washed out, the flooding of farmland caused the deaths of millions of farm animals, and excess heat the deaths of billions of intertidal organisms. The town of Lytton was burned to the ground. Scientific attribution studies showed climate change made these events up to 150 times more likely and implicated major fossil fuel producers because their lifecycle emissions make up the majority of global emissions.

Who should pay for these past events and to adapt infrastructure to minimize future damage? Currently, B.C. taxpayers pay these costs. However, courts have repeatedly ruled that those knowingly causing deaths and damage should pay compensation in proportion to the damage they produce. I think the CRD is on the right track.

Aidan Byrne