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LETTER: UVic law students urge CRD to join Sue Big Oil campaign

Students on UVic campus in Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)

This letter was written by students in the UVic Environmental Law Club to urge local governments in the Capital Regional District to sign on to the Sue Big Oil campaign.

Sue Big Oil is a class-action lawsuit organized by West Coast Environmental Law which seeks to compel major oil companies (“Big Oil”), who are British Columbia’s biggest emitters, to pay for their fair share for the cost of climate change – a crisis that they have both perpetuated and profited from.

The climate crisis continues to cause increased damage to our province’s infrastructure with each passing year. This has resulted in significant financial burdens for local governments. 2023 was the most expensive and destructive wildfire season on record in B.C.: the government spent $966 million fighting wildfires. The heat dome was an unforgettable event in 2021, in which over 500 British Columbians died as emergency systems were overwhelmed; mere months later, the atmospheric river wrought $2 billion in damages. Local governments in Canada will need an estimated $5.3 billion every year to prepare for climate change. The South Island is especially vulnerable, due to our dry climate and proximity to a rising sea. City and town councils across the CRD region need a way to source this money, and fast.

Canadian law has made it clear that corporations have an obligation to the public to mitigate the known harms of their product. However, like Big Tobacco before them, Big Oil continues to spread misinformation and lobby against climate action, despite being well aware of the material risks of burning fossil fuels since at least the 1960s.

Joining the Sue Big Oil campaign provides a mechanism to hold Big Oil accountable for their behaviour, akin to Big Tobacco, and gain some relief for the climate-strained public purse while doing so.

Sue Big Oil is asking municipalities to pledge $1 per resident to fund the class-action lawsuit, which represents an investment of $439,950 for the whole of the CRD.

This is a small sum relative to the climate costs we are already incurring, and a sliver of the CRD’s 2024 consolidated budget of $724 million. Sue Big Oil offers the CRD an opportunity to get on board with an existing effort for climate justice. We urge the CRD to take this opportunity.

We are pleased that the Town of View Royal has already signed on to the lawsuit, and are hopeful that the other CRD municipalities will follow their example.

Nick Noble & Margaret Williams, co-presidents

on behalf of the UVic Environmental Law Club