Vancouver could join other B.C. municipalities asking energy sector to cover climate change costs

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WATCH: (Aired Jan. 20) Coleen Christie is joined by Vancouver city councillor, Christine Boyle, to discuss the recent motion to pass a climate emergency – Jan 20, 2019

Vancouver could become the latest — and largest — B.C. city to call on fossil fuel companies to cover the costs of climate change impacts within its boundaries.

That’s the goal of a motion set for debate at Vancouver city council Tuesday introduced by councillors Christine Boyle and Jean Swanson, which asks the city to join a letter-writing campaign that stretches back two years.

The motion asks for Mayor Kennedy Stewart to write on behalf of council to “the 20 fossil fuel companies with the highest percentage of greenhouse gas emissions to ask that they be accountable for their share of climate emergency costs.”

WATCH: (Aired Dec. 14, 2018) Backlash over Whistler mayor’s climate change letter

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Backlash over Whistler mayor’s climate change letter – Dec 14, 2018

Such letters would echo requests written and sent by municipalities including Victoria, Whistler, West Vancouver, Port Moody and others to companies such as Shell and Chevron.

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In the motion, Boyle and Swanson cite a report issued by the B.C. government that predicts the City of Vancouver will have to spend $1 billion between now and 2100 on seawall and dike improvements to protect itself from rising sea levels.

READ MORE: Within 75 years, Vancouver’s waterfront homes ‘will probably be starting to flood,’ report says

The report, which came out in 2012, said municipalities throughout Metro Vancouver will have to pay a combined $9.5 billion over the same time period.

Boyle said Sunday that fossil fuel companies should be on the hook for at least some of those costs.

“It’s important that we join this larger conversation about the costs of climate impacts and how the city should handle them,” she said.

READ MORE: Vancouver City Council votes to declare ‘climate emergency’

“It’s a larger conversation about how those costs are shared, and fossil fuel companies should take on some of that responsibility.”

The motion also calls for Stewart to reach out to other municipalities and governments, including the province and Ottawa, to explore forming legal partnerships that will pursue recovering those costs.

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If the motion is adopted, a letter would also be sent to Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna calling for federal legislation that would hold fossil fuel companies liable.

WATCH: (Aired April 2) Report says Canada is warming twice as fast as rest of the world

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Report: Climate change on fast-forward in Canada – Apr 2, 2019

Boyle said having Vancouver join the campaign, which has been spearheaded by lawyers at West Coast Environmental Law, is long overdue.

“I think this is an important campaign for us to add our voices to,” she said. “I think there’s been a real focus on making sure we do everything we can so we can have that integrity in calling for larger changes.”

READ MORE: Whistler request for Alberta oilsands company to cover climate change expenses causes outrage

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The campaign hasn’t come without challenges. Energy companies largely based in Alberta have voiced opposition to the requests and have even taken retaliatory action against municipalities.

Most notably, several oil and gas companies pulled out of a major investor conference in Whistler after the village sent a request to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

The mayor was forced to issue multiple apologies, saying the letter was largely symbolic, but the damage was already done and the conference went ahead without the energy sector.

READ MORE: Victoria backs climate change lawsuit against energy industry, is accused of hypocrisy in Alberta

Boyle said she’s not concerned about ruffling some feathers to make a statement about the dire financial risk climate change poses to the city.

“Part of [the campaign] is questioning the social licence this industry has had for so long, and questioning the notion that changing our own lifestyle habits will get us far enough,” she said. “It won’t, not based on the timeline we have.
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WATCH: (Aired Jan. 17) National climate emergency motion passes in House of Commons

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National climate emergency motion passes in House of Commons – Jun 17, 2019

“We need to shift the industry as a whole, and that’s going to make the industry nervous.”

Vancouver city council joined hundreds of local governments in declaring a climate emergency in January. Other B.C. cities, including Port Moody, have since followed suit.

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