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BC’s Emergency Management laws must address climate costs, say organizations and academics

Friday, January 31, 2020

VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – BC is not doing enough to investigate, prepare for, and protect taxpayers from the looming costs of climate change, say 25 BC-based organizations and 4 leading academics.

In a submission to the BC government’s consultation on emergency management legislation, the groups are calling on the Province to better incorporate the increasing financial costs expected to prepare for, respond to and recover from forest fires, flooding, extreme weather and other climate-related emergencies.

The letter also expresses concern that taxpayers may be on the hook for all of the rising emergency costs and urges the Province to enact a Climate Compensation Act – similar to those already in place to hold tobacco and opioid manufacturers liable for harm caused by their products – to allow for partial recovery of climate change emergency costs.

“To be serious about emergency management, BC needs to be serious about climate change and what it is likely to cost us,” said Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law. “The province faces billions of dollars in expected costs due to climate-related disasters in the coming years. We need to ensure that taxpayers will not continue to pay 100% of those costs while fossil fuel companies make massive profits from the products that cause climate change.”

Signatories to the submission say the Province’s consultation, which ends today, briefly recognized that climate change would increase the frequency and severity of many emergencies, but made no recommendations specifically intended to address the associated costs.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, stated, “The climate crisis represents a severe and dangerous threat to Indigenous peoples, our traditional ways of living, and our lands and territories. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples confirms that Indigenous peoples have the right to restitution for the disruption of our way of life in this climate crisis. The BC government committed to implement the UN Declaration through the recent Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, and must be accountable for decisions that will directly impact the environmental and social health and well-being of communities across the province.”

“Smoke-filled skies and evacuations have already given British Columbians a first taste of the reality of climate change,” said Christianne Wilhelmson, Executive Director of Georgia Strait Alliance. “Real emergency management requires asking difficult questions about how bad it’s going to get and how we will pay to keep British Columbians safe.”

“When cigarette smoking started inhaling our health care dollars, provincial governments, including in BC, protected the public by enacting the Tobacco Damages Recovery Act,” said AJ Klein, Pacific Regional Organizer with the Council of Canadians. “We need elected leaders to do the same now to hold global fossil fuel companies responsible for harm caused by their products.”

The signatories to the letter included academics, environmental and Indigenous organizations such as the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Sierra Club of BC, Dogwood BC, Wilderness Committee and many more.

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The letter submitted to the Emergency Management Consultation is available here.

For more information, contact:

Andrew Gage | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law
250-380-8207, agage@wcel.org 

Allison Murray | Communications Associate, Georgia Strait Alliance
604-442-1846

Victoria Marshall | Communications Officer, Council of Canadians
647-242-3392, vmarshall@canadians.org