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UPDATED: Local governments demand fossil fuel companies pay for climate change costs

Squamish and Whistler officials have sent a letter asking corporations to foot the bill

In wake of what has been declared the worst wildfire season in B.C., local politicians are demanding that fossil fuel companies start paying for climate change costs.

Elected officials from Squamish and Whistler voted in favour of sending letters asking that 20 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies foot the bill for climate change, according to environmental advocacy groups.

“We are facing a climate crisis and we need to act now. Squamish faces flooding from rising sea levels and the risk of wildfires, while Whistler, as a ski destination, has to grapple with loss of snow,” said Tracey Saxby, co-founder of My Sea to Sky, in a news release.

The organization appeared before Squamish council on Tuesday asking that it send a letter.

“Local governments and candidates cannot ignore the fact that wildfires, droughts, flooding and other impacts made worse by climate change are increasingly costing them and their taxpayers,” said Andrew Gage, a lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law, in a news release.

“Local governments face a choice between, on the one hand, fiscal negligence in just assuming that taxpayers will bear the full burden of these rising costs alone and, on the other, seeking to ensure that fossil fuel companies pay their fair share of climate costs.”

Environmentalists are hoping a similar motion will be passed at next week’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler.

On the agenda is Resolution B128, which, if passed, would have municipalities from across the province send a joint letter asking fossil fuel corporations to foot the bill for climate change.

Some election candidates in Vancouver have also taken it upon themselves to attempt to collect money they believed is owed as a result of environmental damage.

Members of OneCity, a political party vying for seats in city hall, have promised that, if elected, they will make fossil fuel companies pay by modelling lawsuits filed by New York City and other communities in the United States.

Earlier this year, New York brought forth a high-profile lawsuit against five major oil companies, but, in July, a federal judge dismissed the legal action.

West Coast says that with the addition of Squamish and Whistler, 12 municipalities, one regional district and the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities have now voted to send “climate accountability letters” to major fossil fuel companies.


***This story was updated on Sept. 6 at 1:54 p.m. PDT.

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