Bill for fuel harm pumped

Vic­to­ria coun­cil­lors want fos­sil-fuel com­pa­nies to share in cli­mate-change costs

Times Colonist - - The Capital / B.c. - BILL CLEVERLEY bclev­er­ley@times­colonist.com

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.

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