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Courtenay council officially asking fossil fuel companies to help with climate costs

COURTENAY, B.C- The city council of Courtenay has signed off on a letter asking fossil fuel producers to think about the city’s climate costs.

The item was up for discussion at the latest meeting of city council, with a draft letter brought forward by Councillors Doug Hillian and Will Cole-Hamilton. The pair had been assigned to come up with the draft the last time the idea came up.

The wording of the letter is included below.

Dear _______

We are writing in response to a delegation from the West Coast Environmental Law organization which has requested that we contact you as part of a climate change accountability campaign. In considering this request, We are mindful of our community’s legislated responsibility to respond to climate change by including greenhouse gas reduction targets, actions and polices in our Official Community Plan (OCP).

Our OCP focusses those reduction efforts on the transportation sector as “Courtenay’s greatest source of community-wide emissions as determined by the provincial Community Energy and Emissions Inventory” (City of Courtenay OCP).

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You will also appreciate our concern about the costs related to the impacts of climate change, impacts that are acknowledged by federal and provincial governments across the political spectrum to include a significant increase in more severe climate events that damage municipal infrastructure.

We are therefore contacting you with the intent to begin a discussion about the impacts of climate change and accountability for the related costs.

We recognize that adaptation, mitigation and the repair of damages related to climate change will be a major expense for communities like ours. While taxpayers are currently paying the full cost of such impacts, we believe that we owe it to our citizens to explore other long-term funding options.

We certainly recognize that our community and residents have benefitted from the use of fossil fuels and that many of our citizens work in related industries.

As such, we are responsible for part of the financial burden of the resulting climate changes.

We also recognize that companies such as yours have profited from the sale of fossil fuels and continue to do so. It would therefore seem reasonable to expect that, in the coming years, all parties benefitting from the use of fossil fuels come to the table to discuss our common response to climate change including our financial accountability.

We hope that this letter may open a constructive dialogue with your company and look forward to hearing your response on how we address this shared challenge.

According to Mayor Bob Wells, the draft letter prompted a high amount of debate at the council table, with Councillor Manno Theos eventually moving to remove the first paragraph. The struck section is highlighted above.

After that change, the letter was passed without opposition.

“Given that it’s a legal responsibility for council to consider climate change, and not just to consider it, but to really work to mitigate as much as we can locally, on the other side of it is that we have to balance our budget, and you know, climate change is causing extra stress on our infrastructure, which obviously results in extra cost,” said Wells.

“If you read the letter, it’s not as argumentative or adversarial as the original letter that was recommended by the law corporation (West Coast Environmental Law). It takes a much more conciliatory tone, that is meant to create a dialogue for us to work together.”

With the passing of the draft letter by council, Wells stated that the actual sending of the letter is now going ahead. It will be sent to the world’s largest twenty fossil fuel companies.

“There’s a part of our community that thinks this letter should be more antagonistic, and more adversarial and there are people who think there shouldn’t be a letter at all,” said Wells.

“We think this strikes a good balance, to be able to represent our entire community in the most positive way.”

He didn’t believe it would lead to court action the way it was written. The city will be getting the addresses of the twenty companies from West Coast Environmental Law, and sending it themselves.

Wells said they want to make sure it’s sent, and viewed in a positive light.

According to the Georgia Strait Alliance, the move makes Courtenay the 20th municipality in British Columbia to send a climate accountability letter.

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