The City of Vancouver seems to be contemplating a suit against oil companies.
If such legal action is taken, it would be to hold these corporations financially liable for contributing to climate change.
Indications that a suit may be considered became evident during council’s deliberation Wednesday (December 5) of an update to the city’s climate change adaptation strategy.
Councillor Christine Boyle asked what is being done along the lines of a court case previously filed by New York City against major oil firms.
Responding to Boyle’s question, Doug Smith, director of the city’s sustainability group, said that this issue is best discussed in camera or behind closed doors because it involves a legal matter.
Boyle then reminded city manager Sadhu Johnston that this subject should be included in a future private meeting by council.
Johnston told Boyle that he would be “happy” to “update” council about “discussions” by staff about this matter.
It is also possible that the city may not go this route because of setbacks by other North American cities on this front.
The New York City suit referred to by Boyle was filed in January this year against Chevron Corp, BP Plc, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp, and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
The case was dismissed last July by U.S. District Judge John Keenan in Manhattan, who wrote in his decision that climate change is not a problem that the courts can deal with.
According to Keenan, climate change is an issue that should be addressed by executive and legislative branches of government.
The same reasoning was made by judge William Alsup of the federal district court in San Franciso, when he dismissed in June this year a similar suit filed by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland.
The two California cities sued the same five big oil companies over costs of dealing with climate change.
The use of oil and other fossil fuels has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Along with other gases like methane, these gases trap heat coming from the Earth, causing a warming or greenhouse effect.
The other causes of climate change include deforestation and livestock farming.
Climate change has been associated with impacts like severe weather conditions.
At the Wednesday meeting, council unanimously voted in favour of the updated climate change adaptation strategy of the city.
The main action areas in the strategy cover enhanced city infrastructure, resilient buildings, prepared communities, coastal preparedness, and natural assets like urban forests.