Canadian officials voted down a measure Sunday that would have opened up the possibility of engaging in a climate lawsuit holding major oil companies responsible for costs associated with wildfires and other natural disasters.
Officials from Vancouver Island and coastal British Columbia communities in Canada met over the weekend to debate whether to sue oil and gas companies to help offset the cost of cleaning up damage from floods and wildfire. David Screech, the mayor of View Royal B.C., notified his Twitter followers Sunday that the measure was defeated.
“The motion was soundly defeated just now at our conference. No lawsuits,” he wrote in response to questions from people concerned about what such a measure might mean for the industry. Screech’s office confirmed to The Daily Caller News Foundation that the measure was defeated.
Canadian taxpayers spent roughly $350-million on programs designed to fight B.C. wildfires in 2018. Fire suppression measures cost more than $568 million in 2017, according to media reports. B.C.’s auditor general said in a 2018 report that costs associated with man-made global warming across Canada could reach between $21 and $43 billion annually over 30 years.
One Canadian official who previously supported such measures is now reversing course. “Since we passed the original motion, I have had some second thoughts,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said in an April 4 interview on CBC. “I think there might be more prudent and more timely approaches.” She cited reports suggesting Canada is experiencing a higher rate of global warming than many other countries.
Helps added: “Time is running out and fighting lawsuits is probably not the best way to spend our time, when we’ve got a planet to save.” Her newfound opposition to climate lawsuits stands in stark contrast to many of her American counterparts who are seeking climate lawsuits of their own.
New York City officials sued ExxonMobil and others in January 2018 for damages wrought by natural disasters.
U.S. District Judge John Keenan ultimately dismissed the lawsuit in July 2018, arguing that litigating such an action “for injuries from foreign greenhouse gas emissions in federal court would severely infringe upon the foreign-policy decisions that are squarely within the purview of the political branches of the U.S government.”
It’s the third such lawsuit brought against oil companies Exxon, Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips. A U.S. District Court judge in Northern California struck down identical lawsuits in 2018 brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland. Opponents of the litigation frequently criticize the trial attorneys behind the litigation, claiming that the lawsuits are nothing more than a get-rich scheme.
Hagens Berman, for instance, stood to earn billions of dollars in contingency fees depending on the total winnings, from a favorable judgment against oil companies. San Francisco, New York City and Oakland claimed billions of dollars worth of damage from global warming induced by fossil fuels.