March 22nd, 2019

Greenpeace Canada to Toronto City Council: Hold oil companies accountable for their fair share of climate costs

Girl walks through water on the flooded DVP during the July 2013 flash flood

Girl walks through water on the flooded DVP during the July 2013 flash flood © Tom Ryaboi / Greenpeace

TORONTO — Greenpeace Canada has urged Toronto City Council to support Councillor Mike Layton’s motion to investigate legal options for holding fossil fuel producers accountable for their fair share of the costs of dealing with climate change. The motion was developed based in part on expertise from Greenpeace and was put on Council’s agenda by Councillor Layton today.

“Toronto is already facing nearly billion-dollar costs for dealing with things like extreme storms, floods and heat waves, which climate change will make worse. We’ll need to pay even more to make city infrastructure, transit, housing and health systems resilient to these kinds of disasters. The motion before City Council is a not-to-be-missed opportunity for Toronto to ensure that the oil industry, which knew for at least 50 years that its products would fuel climate change, is contributing its fair share of the costs of dealing with the crisis,” said Keith Stewart, Senior Energy Strategist at Greenpeace Canada.

Recent journalistic and academic investigations have revealed that by the late 1960s, the oil industry was actively engaging in climate science and had concrete knowledge about fossil fuels’ impact on climate change. Yet rather than sharing this information, they launched sophisticated campaigns to cast doubt on the science and delay action.

Over a dozen U.S. cities and counties, including New York City, San Francisco and Baltimore, and a state, Rhode Island, have since launched lawsuits to hold fossil fuel companies financially responsible for their role in global warming-related damages. These state and municipal legal actions in the U.S. are modelled on the successful cases against tobacco companies, which hid the devastating health impacts of cigarettes from consumers but were ultimately made to pay over CDN $270 billion in damages.

“Just like Big Tobacco, Big Oil needs to be held accountable for decades of climate denial, delay and damages. Instead of working on solutions to the climate crisis they knew was coming, oil companies chose to invest in public relations campaigns to cast doubt on the science, delay the transition to renewable energy, and invest in more extraction. Those decades of delay mean that Torontonians will shoulder much heavier health, affordability and financial burdens,” said Stewart.

In Canada, 20 local governments have sent climate accountability letters to the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, asking these corporations to pay a fair share of local costs. Victoria’s city council has also asked the Union of B.C. Municipalities to explore initiating a class action lawsuit on behalf of local governments.

Councillor Layton’s motion also asks City staff to calculate the costs of dealing with climate change. Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health and the Canadian Medical Association have identified climate change as an important health concern, increasing risks related to heat-waves, air pollution, mental health and more. According to the City’s Preliminary Resilience Assessment, Toronto is already experiencing “hotter, wetter, and wilder” weather due to climate change and protecting the city from extreme weather must be a top priority.


For additional details, see Greenpeace Canada’s Briefing Note.

For more information, please contact:
Keith Stewart, Senior Energy Strategist, Greenpeace Canada; +1 (416) 659-0294

Jesse Firempong, Communications Office, Greenpeace Canada; +1 (778) 996 6549