(64 page pdf, Andrew Gage and Michael Byers, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Oct. 9, 2014)
Also discussed here: Climate change may create legal liability for Canadian energy firms – New report from B.C. think-tanks says elements are in place to allow for civil action (CBC News, Oct. 9, 2014)
And here: Policy Time Line
Today we review a report from a Canadian policy think-tank which examines the potential for legal action against a handful of Canadian oil and gas producers, because of their contribution to harmful impacts from global climate change, expected to reach $5B/year by 2020. The potential liability of each Canadian company is between $37.8 million and$90.8 million in 2010, rising to over $700M by 2030. Just as it took about 30 years to collect from tobacco companies for harmful impacts to health from the time a warning was given by the Surgeon General of the USA in the late 1960s, so the clock is ticking for those responsible for damages from climate change- and the clock began ticking in 1988 at the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere, the first major international forum bringing scientists and politicians together in an effort to combat global warming, where 300 international scientists and policy makers from 46 countries issued a warning on climate change whose consequences “could be second only to a global nuclear war”.
Since then, two major factors have changed in terms of environmental liability: much more accurate estimates of financial damages and of emissions have been documented, and the law profession itself has matured and broadened to include the environment as an active and growing area of jurisprudence. In addition, as the report points out, even if the existing body of law does not explicitly identify GHG emissions as a culpable area, courts have been willing to change the law and liability in light of new information, as seen in the tobacco cases. Whether that liability starts and ends with oil and gas producers or extends to those responsible for reducing damages from climate change and the emissions that cause them- such as large municipalities which control traffic and vehicle emissions, public infrastructure and protection of private property from environmental damages, for example, remains to be seen. And then there is the growing awareness of the impacts of climate change which combines with air pollution to increase health costs.
To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE