Make companies pay

In a recent column that ran on Castanet, Kelowna’s Mayor Tom Dyas, noted “we all have a role to play in helping to limit climate change.” Absolutely. This city — this planet — is our home and we are all responsible for taking care of it and minimizing the harm we cause.

Similarly, we all have a role to play in dealing with the effects of climate change, such as worse and more frequent wildfires. Unfortunately, reducing the risk of wildfires and dealing with them when they happen costs a lot of money. CBC recently reported over the past decade, fighting wildfires in B.C. has cost, on average, $316.9 million annually. As of Sept. 1, $585 million has been spent on fighting wildfires this year.

Dyas is clearly aware of these enormous costs. He remarked on how important it will be for our city to secure funding to reduce wildfire risk, including proactive fuel mitigation treatments.

As local taxpayers, we should certainly shoulder some of the costs of protecting our communities and rebuild them when disaster strikes. That’s fair. But it’s not fair for residents to carry the entire burden. What would be fair is for fossil fuel companies to share some of those costs too.

The oil and gas industry knew about climate change decades ago, and companies continue to profit from fossil fuels, knowing the harm they cause. Climate change is one of the costs of doing business for those companies. But, in B.C., residents covering all the costs of the local harm, not the companies themselves. And that’s simply not fair.

The activities of fossil fuel companies increase global temperature. And, as Dyas writes, “as temperatures rise, so too will the size, frequency and severity of wildfires.” The risk of other disasters, such as droughts, floods, landslides and life-threatening extreme temperatures, increases too.

Do you think fossil fuel companies should pay their fair share to mitigate the risks of climate-change related disasters, help pay for dealing with them when they happen and contribute to the costs of clean-up and rebuilding? If you agree that fossil fuel companies should pay their fair share, please sign the Sue Big Oil declaration calling on local governments in B.C. to file a lawsuit to recover a fair share of our climate costs from oil and gas companies.

Two B.C. municipalities have already committed to suing, and others are considering it. In the U.S., similar lawsuits have been filed by dozens of municipalities and several states, including, California, which faces wildfire risks like B.C.

As Dyas mentioned in his column, one of Kelowna city council’s six priorities is climate/environment. Financial contributions from the fossil fuel industry would help council address that priority without passing all the costs onto tax-paying residents.

If you’re interested in finding out what else you can do to help make a class action lawsuit happen, please contact me at [email protected].

Remember, lawsuits against tobacco companies forced them to pay a share of healthcare costs because they knew about the damage caused by their products, while continuing to profit from them. Similarly, we can make fossil fuel companies pay their fair share of the costs of the harm they cause.

Zena Ryder

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