• Rob Snow

Liability for Climate-Related Harms? Why stop at oil?

An Ontario New Democrat wants big oil to pay big bucks.

Peter Tabuns is a Toronto area NDP MPP and a former executive director of Greenpeace Canada. His private members' bill, the Liability for Climate-Related Harms Act, seeks to "ensure that coal, oil and gas producers contribute their fair share to paying for the harms to which their products contribute and for the necessary steps to prevent future harms."

The bill was tabled last month. It won't advance much before the provincial election in June. If it's Premier Doug Ford, it won't go anywhere at all.

Treating fossil fuel companies like big tobacco is the latest front in the climate wars.

New York City is suing BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell for billions. It claims the companies knew their products would contribute to human caused climate change, but conspired to cover it up. Similar lawsuits have been filed by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland.

This week, the environmental media was buzzing about a "confidential" document from 1988, claiming the Dutch oil major was "open about its own role in creating the conditions for a warming world."

Whether these governments will ever squeeze one cent out of these companies before the earth meets it fiery doom is anyone's guess. The first tobacco related lawsuits were launched in the 1950's, at a time when cigarette companies paid doctors to endorse their products.

The question needs to be asked. Why stop at big oil?

Tabuns' bill exclusively targets the fossil fuel industry for any climate-related harms.

Strict liability for climate-related harms

2 (1) Every corporation, partnership, trust or other entity that is engaged in the production of fossil fuels and to which a globally detectable level of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed, as determined in the regulations, is strictly liable for climate-related harms that occur in Ontario.

Is the fossil fuel industry the only heavy polluter in the entire province? Why doesn't the bill target the auto sector? Or the mining sector? Or the plastics industry? Why isn't the government interested in attacking the copper and nickel mining giants of northern Ontario?

In this regard the Climate-Related Harms Act is a mirror image of the Wynne government's cap & trade program. It makes them look serious about the issue, but is very selective in its finger pointing. Ontario's cap & trade system exempted entire industries. It offered them a carbon credit holiday, while the little guy pays more for the everything. (list of exemptions below)

The progressive forces of the province talk a great game on environmental justice. But their justice isn't blind. Their eyes are wide open when union jobs and union votes are at stake in the lunch bucket cities of Hamilton, Sarnia and Sudbury.

Distribution of Ontario Emission Allowances Free of Charge

  • Cabot Corp. (chemicals)

  • Canadian Gypsum Co.

  • Carmeuse Lime of Canada.

  • CertainTeed Gypsum

  • Columbian PetroChemical Corp.

  • Algoma Steel (calcium lime production)

  • Federal Cement

  • Ameristeel

  • Greenfield Specialty Alcohols

  • Imperial Oil (petrochemical production)

  • Ivaco Rolling Mills

  • Magellan Aerospace

  • NOVA Chemicals

  • Redpath Sugar

  • Styrolution Canada

  • Terra International (ammonia production)

  • Petro-Canada Lubricants

  • Ruetgers Canada (distillation of coal tar)

  • Brampton Brick Limited

  • Forterra Brick

  • Domtar

  • Cascades

  • Dunn

  • Iriving Tissue

  • Strathcona Paper

  • Terrace Bay

  • Atlantic Packaging

  • Resolute

  • Tembec

  • Vale (copper and nickel)

  • Glencore Corporation (copper and nickel)


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#ClimateChange #Lawsuit #FossilFuels #NDP #CapandTrade


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