Over the past decade in British Columbia, climate change accelerated by fossil fuel pollution has led to wildfires, flooding, drought, and extreme heat, with disastrous consequences: destroying towns, drying up water sources, drowning thousands of acres of agricultural land, and – during the 2021 heat dome – killing hundreds of people and untold numbers of other life forms. Here on the Sunshine Coast, we are experiencing a yearly cycle of drought and deluge that moves us from water shortages to atmospheric rivers.
All this destruction comes at a huge financial cost – a cost that is borne in large part by local municipalities. And those municipalities get their funds from citizens, of course, through taxation. Meanwhile, reports indicate that the oil companies that have knowingly caused much of the pollution that drives climate change have been making obscene profits. Scientist Richard Heede has estimated that the top 20 fossil fuel companies are responsible for as much as 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions, and yet they get off scot-free when it comes to the increasing costs of climate change.
They profit, we pay.
In response to that grave injustice, West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL) has begun a campaign to Sue Big Oil. The goal of the campaign is to persuade BC municipalities to contribute at least $1 per citizen to a community fund that would finance a class action suit against the five biggest oil companies. At the WCEL launch of the campaign, UBC law professor Stepan Wood laid out the justification for the class action suit:
The logic of climate accountability is simple. Companies that profit from selling a product that they know is harmful should pay their share of the costs of the resulting harm. And this logic has been applied successfully to a range of harmful products from asbestos to breast implants to tobacco.
Locally, that effort for accountability has been taken up by the Sunshine Coast Sue Big Oil campaign, which was launched on September 18 at Legacy Gardens in Roberts Creek (video of the launch at bottom of page here). Speakers at the launch were Shíshálh artist and educator Candace Campo, UBC prof and climate activist Avi Lewis, local activist Alaya Boisvert, and Fiona Koza, WCEL’s Climate Accountability Strategist. All candidates for local municipal elections were invited, and many showed up.
The first stage in the campaign is a petition signed by lower Coast citizens from Langdale to Egmont. While those signatures are being collected, the newly elected councillors and directors from the SCRD, Sechelt Indian Government District, District of Sechelt, and town of Gibsons will be encouraged to support the class action strategy. In 2023, the Sunshine Coast campaign team will present its case to the town councils and SCRD board and propose a motion to Sue Big Oil.
Those wishing to support the campaign can sign this petition; and if they want further participation, they can signal that on the petition form. For further information, contact Dawn Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.