Bill for fuel harm pumped
Victoria councillors want fossil-fuel companies to share in climate-change costs
Victoria will join other municipalities in writing to major fossilfuel companies asking them to pay their share of climate-change costs, even though Coun. Geoff Young calls the idea ridiculous.
“It is basically trying to put on other people the responsibility that is properly placed on governments,” Young said.
Mayor Lisa Helps, along with councillors Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday, suggested Victoria follow the lead of Highlands and Saanich and other Canadian municipalities in writing a “climate accountability letter.”
“We’re simply adding our voice to a growing chorus,” Helps said. “Receiving not one but a slew of letters from across Canada, I think will at least get the attention of the fossil-fuel companies.”
Various community groups have been urging municipalities to write to fossil fuel companies asking them to be accountable for the harm caused by their operations and products.
The motion says Victoria faces a “range of impacts from climate change — including sea-level rise, increased coastal erosion, prolonged summer drought, and increased winter precipitation,” and that the impacts must be considered in infrastructure planning, construction and maintenance.
It suggests the city send a letter to 20 fossil-fuel companies outlining the types of costs that Victoria is incurring and expected to incur due to climate change, and demand that the companies pay their fair share of those impacts.
But Young doubted the city really wants to see the companies stop marketing their products in the city, as suggested in a letter template.
“I’d just like us all to imagine what would happen if the oil companies actually read this letter and said: ‘OK, we’ll stop marketing our harmful products on Vancouver Island,’ ” Young said.
“So all of the gas stations sell what’s in their tanks and then put up signs saying: ‘We have decided to cease marketing our harmful products.’ What a ridiculous request. Of course, we don’t intend that they should stop marketing their products.”
More sensibly, Young said, the city could eliminate free parking for city councillors and select employees.
“By far the most sensible policy is a rapid increase in the carbon tax, and that is something we could certainly work toward and advocate,” he said.
Isitt said while “bigger actions” are needed to bring about a transition to a “post-petroleum” economy, a number of advocacy groups had called on the city to be part of the movement in holding fossil-fuel companies accountable.
He said the city is doing a lot to encourage people to use other forms of transportation, citing transit initiatives, development of a bike lane network, and pedestrian infrastructure as examples.
Isitt said there are a dozen gas retailers on the South Island operated as a co-op so there are options in the unlikely event that fuel companies decided not to sell their products here anymore.
“I’m not personally concerned that we would run out of fuel if the private sector decided to no longer operate on Vancouver Island,” he said.
Loveday said some U.S. municipalities have launched lawsuits looking for help with costs associated with adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.
“Fuel companies as a fact have profited very greatly by the environmental destruction that’s been caused by their operations, and yes, by people purchasing their goods,” Loveday said.
Councillors also agreed to forward the initiative for consideration to the Association of Vancouver Island Municipalities, the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.