Victoria mayor opposes lawsuit but wants to end subsidies for fossil-fuel companies

A lawsuit against fossil-fuel companies might not be the best approach for municipalities wanting to combat climate change, since it would take too long, says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

Helps is recommending instead that B.C. and Canadian municipalities lobby the provincial and federal governments to end subsidies to fossil-fuel companies and to invest that money in local governments’ efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

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She is seeking council support for such a motion to be forwarded to the upcoming Association of Coastal and Vancouver Island Municipalities.

The resolution notes that the province recently approved a $5.35-billion package of tax incentives for a $40-billion LNG Canada megaproject, supported by $1.275 billion from the federal government. And, according to a 2015 report by the International Monetary Fund, the annual federal subsidy to the fossil-fuel industry is $46 billion.

Helps said her support for a lawsuit against the fossil-fuel industry waned in the wake of a just-released federal report indicating that Canada is warming at twice the global rate, and a recent warning from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change that there are only 11 years left to reduce carbon pollution by 45 per cent.

“If the IPCC is the alarm clock and you hit the snooze button, your alarm is going off again with this report from Ottawa earlier in the week,” Helps said.

In January, Victoria was one of the first municipalities to call on local municipalities to explore launching a class-action lawsuit against major fossil-fuel companies to recover costs associated with climate change.

But Helps said a lawsuit is “going to take 20 years to get anything if we get anywhere at all.” In the meantime, municipalities need the money from somewhere.

“The federal and provincial governments are subsidizing fossil fuel and they’re not subsidizing local governments to take climate action.”

Victoria councillors’ earlier resolution called on staff to track and report costs associated with climate change.

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