March 26th, 2018

NDP introduces bill to hold largest fossil fuel corporations accountable for climate change

NDP MPP Peter Tabuns will be introducing a bill today that provides a framework for citizens, businesses and governments in Ontario to sue big oil and gas corporations for climate related damages from their products.

“The world's largest fossil fuel corporations have to start paying their fair share for the damage from their products, and for the cost of protecting people from those damages,” said Tabuns, the NDP’s Environment and Climate Change critic.

This bill follows in the footsteps of the tobacco liability legislation in place in Ontario to allow governments to sue for health care costs. Under Tabuns’ bill, those fossil fuel corporations whose products have put enough CO2 into the atmosphere to be globally detectable would begin paying the price for climate change damage that is currently being shouldered by communities.

Tabuns held a press conference at Queen’s Park on Monday morning to introduce the bill and was joined via Skype by Dr. James Hansen, a renowned climatologist and former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; Kristin Casper, Litigation Counsel for Greenpeace Canada; and Keith Stewart, Senior Energy Strategist at Greenpeace Canada.

Dr. Hansen said that in the U.S. there is already litigation underway by New York City, San Francisco and Oakland. “Unchecked climate change is a threat to humanity. People need a variety of tools and strategies to protect our society. Holding fossil fuel companies liable for the damage from their products is a big step,” he said.

Casper said that it’s time for this legislation in Ontario so communities can protect themselves from the enormous costs of climate change. “There is a wave of climate lawsuits sweeping the globe. New York, San Francisco and seven other communities are already suing oil companies seeking compensation for the costs of protecting their residents and economies from the devastating impacts of climate change. Ontario communities should do the same, and the proposed Liability for Climate-Related Harms Act will make it easier to do so," she said.

Stewart said that elected representatives, and those running for office, should demonstrate support for the bill that will make big fossil fuel companies transparent to the public. “Just like the tobacco companies, oil and coal companies hid what they knew about the science in order to delay policy action that would shrink the market for their product,” he said. “Any politician who claims to stand up for the little guy should support this legislation to clarify how fossil fuel companies will pay their fair share of the costs to protect our communities from the ravages of climate change.”

Fossil fuel producers who are responsible for emissions at a globally detectable level will be held strictly liable for the climate related harms that they cause in Ontario. The bill sets out the framework for related lawsuits and the nature of evidence to be produced.

The bill will be introduced in the legislature on Monday afternoon at approximately 1:30 pm.