Victoria was one of the first municipalities in British Columbia to pen a letter to oil and gas companies last year asking them to chip in to cover growing bills in proportion to their emissions. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Victoria was one of the first municipalities in British Columbia to pen a letter to oil and gas companies last year asking them to chip in to cover growing bills in proportion to their emissions. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

B.C. cities join global movement asking oil companies for climate change costs

Staff and contractors in Victoria have been crunching the numbers on climate change costs for the coastal city and it’s not looking good, the mayor says.

Lisa Helps says based on a report commissioned by the regional government in 2015, storm surges combined with a one-metre rise in sea level — which is projected by the year 2100 — could result in business disruption losses of $415,557 per day.

Victoria was one of the first municipalities in British Columbia to pen a letter to oil and gas companies last year asking them to chip in to cover growing bills in proportion to their emissions.

It is joining local governments around the world in seeking some relief.

“We’re actively working through our climate leadership plan to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, but in the interim there are real costs to taxpayers,” Helps said in an interview.

“It’s pretty fair to say ‘You caused this, you need to help us mitigate the cost,’ even as we all — energy companies and cities — work toward a renewable energy future.”

West Coast Environmental Law, which has driven the campaign in B.C., says 16 local councils have voted to write letters to fossil fuel companies. The most recent was West Vancouver, which voted last week.

“It’s been increasing in momentum,” said Andrew Gage, the organization’s staff lawyer.

It’s not about handing the entire bill to fossil fuel producers, but seeking a reasonable contribution relative to a company’s pollution, he said.

“No one is saying the individual consumer bears no responsibility, it’s a question of what the relative responsibility is,” he said.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers declined comment, saying that since the letters are sent directly to companies, it considers the issue “company specific.” Shell and Exxon Mobil, two of the largest oil companies in the world, did not respond to requests for comment.

The campaign has largely flown under the radar until recently when the resort town of Whistler in B.C. drew the ire of Alberta for sending one of the letters to Calgary-based oilsands giant Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

Last weekend, Alberta’s economic development and trade minister, Deron Bilous, took a dig at Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton while speaking at a pro-oil rally in Grand Prairie.

“The people of Whistler need to tell the truth: that they are using Alberta gas for their cars, for their petrochemical products, and they’re using our oil and it’s time to smarten up,” he told the rally.

Crompton apologized in a Facebook video last week.

Governments in other parts of the world are trying different tactics.

Several cities in the United States, including New York and San Francisco, have tried unsuccessfully to sue major oil companies over climate change.

In the Philippines, the Commission on Human Rights has an ongoing investigation into a complaint filed against 47 coal, oil, gas and cement companies.

Greenpeace says it’s the world’s first human rights investigation into corporate responsibility for climate change and was launched in response to complaints from typhoon survivors, advocates and community groups.

While there’s no monetary element to the investigation, Greenpeace said it could set a precedent for other legal cases relating to climate change liability.

In Ontario, the legislature has twice debated a private member’s bill intended to clarify the rules around suing fossil fuel companies. The bill was killed by the Progressive Conservative government under Premier Doug Ford.

Greenpeace Canada said it’s working on a tool kit for local governments considering launching a legal challenge to fossil fuel companies similar to those in the United States.

“We’ll be encouraging cities across the country, and I’ll personally ask the City of Toronto, to launch this kind of a case,” said Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada.

Stewart pointed to a city staff report that found between 2000 and 2012, Toronto experienced three one-in-100-year rain storms and it said the city would continue to experience extreme weather events.

“This wave of climate lawsuits, which have just picked up speed in the last couple of years, is not going to go away,” Stewart said.

Whether the letter writing campaign will be effective beyond raising awareness has yet to be seen.

Since Victoria sent 19 letters to the largest fossil fuel companies in the world, none of which Helps said were Canadian, it has received only one response.

Shell Canada responded on behalf of Royal Dutch Shell in a letter that did not commit to any payment but highlighted the companies support for emissions goals as outlined in the Paris Agreement and “billions of dollars” it has invested in low carbon and renewable energies.

It also highlighted its Quest project, launched in Edmonton in 2015, as an example, saying it reduces carbon dioxide emissions from oil sands operations by more than one million tonnes per year.

“These are a few examples of the actions we are taking today, recognizing that the global energy transition will span decades, moving at different paces and producing different outcomes in different countries depending on local factors,” says the letter signed by president Michael Crothers.

“We welcome efforts toward constructive, collaborative action as we collectively attempt to address this complex global challenge.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sylvan Lake Fire Department respond to a call at Fox Run School, Wednesday morning. (Photo by Sean Mathieson)
Fire department responds to mechanical belt malfunction at Sylvan Lake school

Students at Fox Run and Mother Teresa are asked to stay home, bused students will be taken home

Fitness equipment is sitting unused in Red Deer-area area gyms, which remain closed since pandemic restrictions were announced on Dec. 8. (Pxhere.com)
Red Deer gym owners call for a targeted re-opening plan

The limbo of ongoing closures is ‘frustrating,’ they say

Donna Boa of Red Deer, is hoping to raise money to help cover her father’s medical bills after he suffered a stroke in the Phillipines. (Photo courtesy of GoFundMe)
Red Deer woman raising money for stroke victim

A GoFundMe campaign has been started for a Red Deer woman whose… Continue reading

People walk along a pedestrianized zone of Sainte-Catherine street in Montreal, Monday, May 18, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. Newly released statistics point to a major drop in police-recorded crime during the first eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Crime down in first eight months of pandemic, but mental-health calls rise: StatCan

OTTAWA — Newly released figures point to a major drop in police-recorded… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada scrambling for smaller syringes ahead of expected Pfizer vaccine label change

OTTAWA — Canada’s procurement department is scrambling to source smaller syringes for… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. Quebec’s director of national health says he’s still not sure when the province will begin administering COVID-19 booster shots — 42 days since officials started injecting people with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Calculated risk or gamble: Experts differ on merits of Quebec’s vaccine strategy

MONTREAL — Quebec’s director of national health said he’s still not sure… Continue reading

This electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, in yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in a lab. The Canadian Armed Forces is dealing with a dramatic increase in the number of troops who have been infected with COVID-19 over the past month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID-RML via AP
Canadian military dealing with surge in new COVID-19 infections since December

OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces is dealing with a dramatic increase… Continue reading

Advocates for the homeless hold a protest against the COVID-19 curfew Monday, January 11, 2021 in Montreal. The Quebec government says it will not challenge a temporary court order granted Tuesday that exempts the homeless from a provincewide curfew imposed to limit the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Quebec to exempt homeless from curfew after court finds measure endangered safety

MONTREAL — The Quebec government said Wednesday it will not challenge a… Continue reading

People march towards Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office in Toronto, during a rally led by current and former international students calling for changes to immigration rules during COVID-19, on Sept. 12, 2020. A new work permit program for international students in Canada is taking applications starting today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
New work permit program for international graduates in Canada taking applications

A new work-permit program aimed at encouraging international students to settle in… Continue reading

A fire-destroyed property registered to Gabriel Wortman at 200 Portapique Beach Road is seen in Portapique, N.S. on May 8, 2020. Three people who allegedly supplied ammunition to the gunman who murdered 22 people in the April 18-19 mass shooting in Nova Scotia are scheduled for court hearings today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Lawyer for accused in ammo transfer to N.S. shooter criticizes lack of disclosure

HALIFAX — A lawyer for one of three people who allegedly supplied… Continue reading

Hassan Diab holds a news conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa Friday, February 7, 2020. nbsp;A lawyer for Diab says a French appeal court’s order that the Ottawa sociology professor stand trial for a decades-old synagogue bombing is the latest misstep in a long odyssey of injustice. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Order to stand trial in Paris bombing flies in face of evidence, Diab’s lawyer says

OTTAWA — A lawyer for Hassan Diab says a French appeal court’s… Continue reading

File - In this Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018 file photo, survivors of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz arrive for a commemoration ceremony on International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the International Monument to the Victims of Fascism inside Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland. The commemorations for the victims of the Holocaust at the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on Jan. 27, 1945, will be mostly online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, file)
Auschwitz survivors mark anniversary online amid pandemic

Memorial site closed to visitors because of the pandemic

FIFA set a new target to finalizing North American host cities for the 2026 World Cup. (File photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
FIFA sets late-2021 target date to pick 2026 World Cup host cities

23 candidate cities likely need to be cut to 16

Most Read