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LETTER: Oil company lawsuit could drive climate-change initiatives

Sue Big Oil campaigners in Saanich celebrate after a February meeting when council voted in favour of exploring joining other B.C. communities in a class-action lawsuit to recoup climate impact costs from fossil fuel companies. (Courtesy of Sue Big Oil)

Regarding proposals to have local governments and the Capital Regional District join the “Sue Big Oil” campaign, the suit proposed has several parallels with the successful suits against big tobacco. Both industries harm users and non-users alike. Both address great scourges to health, both lobbied and regaled our governments excessively, and both have seen industry lie greatly to increase their sales and huge profits while trying to blame others for harm their products inflicted. In both cases, industry expects individuals and taxpayers to pay the costs of the resulting harm.

Tobacco lawsuits led to legislation that substantially reduced smoking. With governments often seduced by the economic power and constant lobbying of oil and gas companies, a similar lawsuit for the costs of climate change could also lead to legislation and regulation of fossil fuel.

Our local governments cannot afford the millions or even billions of dollars required to make a worthwhile attempt to keep us safe from climate change without other major sources of funding. Global fossil fuel companies are making billions of dollars in profits, while creating atmospheric warming gases which cause crop failures induced by climate change - and products which are then turned into serious health health-destructive pollutants. Therefore a lawsuit is a fiscally responsible option, and one that dozens of communities in the U.S. are pursuing.

The Sue Big Oil campaign will advance justice and challenge the profits of the oil and gas majors. Oil and gas companies are still reaching for every last million while using up and contaminating our drinking water and aquatic habitat. At the same time, they have the arrogance to demand tax breaks and subsidies while often lying about the reliability of clean renewable production.

Let’s all join this project and strengthen our local governments’ abilities to fund heat pump subsidies, public infrastructure, or even slow the rise in our tax bills.

Glynne Evans