Is it Payback Time? Carbon Majors might face global climate lawsuits

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The Carbon Majors might be face liability for billions of dollars for their contribution to climate change, according to a new study by West Coast Environmental Law and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The study considers the total potential liability of five oil and gas companies currently trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange—Encana, Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources, Talisman, and Husky—and findsthese five companies could presently be incurring a global liability as high as $2.4 billion per year for their contribution to climate change.  

“Fossil fuel companies and other large-scale greenhouse gas producers have contributed, globally, to trillions of dollars of damages related to climate change. As with tobacco companies in the 1980s, these producers are confident the law will not hold them responsible for these damages,” says report author Andrew Gage. “But rising levels of climate damage, increasing scientific evidence about the links between emissions and the damage they cause, and an emerging public debate about who is financially responsible for this damage, could change the situation very quickly.”

According to the study, the most serious risk to Canadian companies is not litigation in Canada. Because the impacts and causes of climate change are global, climate damages litigation could take place in, and apply the laws of, any of the countries where damage occurs. These countries may also choose to adopt new laws clarifying the legal rules around climate damages litigation, much as Canadian provinces did to facilitate tobacco litigation. As a result, large-scale greenhouse gas producers and their shareholders are exposed to significant legal risks that will only grow into the future.

Read the report – wcel.org/sites/default/files/publications/Payback%20Time.pdf

Press release – http://wcel.org/media-centre/media-releases/climate-damages-litigation-could-cost-canadian-oil-gas-companies-billion

Blog post – http://wcel.org/resources/environmental-law-alert/what-transnational-climate-litigation-might-mean-fossil-fuel-compa.

Opinion piece in the Globe and Mail – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/why-climate-litigation-could-soon-go-global/article21002326/