Christine Boyle: Why OneCity thinks Big Oil should pay its fair share

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      Between now and 2100, Vancouver will spend $1 billion on flood prevention. That’s just one of the costs of climate-change impacts that will hit our coastal city. These are funds that are badly needed to build truly affordable housing and provide adequate support in the opioid overdose crisis.

      OneCity Vancouver is demanding that fossil-fuel companies take responsibility for their portion of the world’s climate-changing pollution, and pay their fair share of these climate adaptation costs.

      Infrastructure to mitigate the effects of rising sea levels is just one small portion of the costs to come. Our city has already seen some of the impacts of climate change this summer with smoke from wildfires, water shortages due to lack of rainfall, and reduced snowpack on our local mountains.

      However, in the future we can also expect storm and sewer backups, costs for cooling shelters and heat shelters for vulnerable populations, and more. Vancouver should explore all options—including legal and financial options—for ensuring cost-recovery for these future infrastructure costs.

      OneCity is advocating that the City of Vancouver join British Columbia municipalities (supported by West Coast Environmental Law) in exploring how taking legal action could assign liability and help claim compensation for the costs of preparing for climate change.

      This past week, Squamish and Whistler local governments voted to send letters of accountability to the top 20 fossil-fuel corporations, demanding that they pay their fair share of climate costs. They joined 10 other BC municipalities that have already taken that step. At next week’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) meeting, local governments will vote on Resolution B128, brought forward by Victoria, asking that the UBCM send similar letters on behalf of their member local governments.

      Many regions globally, including New York City and Rhode Island, have already begun legal action to recover costs created by climate impacts. These lawsuits bear some resemblance to cases against the tobacco industry, spotlighting questions about when the industry knew the harm its product was causing, and what actions were taken to address that harm, or to suppress knowledge of it.

      Vancouver has a great deal to be proud of in terms of environmental leadership—local efforts that should continue. And leadership for climate justice requires us to think even larger. OneCity is committed to ensuring that fossil-fuel corporations are held accountable for their role in causing climate harm, and that they are made to pay their fair share of the ever-rising costs of preparing for (and rebuilding from) the impacts of climate change.

      This is an important step in defending our community, while sending an international message to the world’s fossil-fuel polluters. The climate crisis is impacting us now, and it’s time we take action that matches the scale of the problem.

      We’re all responsible for climate change. Big oil corporations should pay their fair share. 

      Christine Boyle is running for Vancouver city council with OneCity Vancouver. She is a community organizer, climate activist, United Church minister, and parent.