In January, West Coast Environmental Law and over 50 other environmental, health, human rights, women’s rights, and faith-based organizations sent an Open Letter to local municipalities in British Columbia, urging them 1.) to write to fossil fuel companies, demanding accountability for the climate change costs being borne by citizens , and 2.) To consider participating in a class action lawsuit against the big polluters. As part of their new initiative, called Climate Law in Our Own Hands , West Coast Environmental Law is offering legal research and support to interested local governments, as well as template letters and fossil fuel company addresses to facilitate the letter-writing campaign. WCEL argues that fossil fuel companies will only start working towards climate change solutions when they are held to account to pay their fair share for the damage being caused. According to one of the Open Letter signatories, Sierra Club B.C. , “The Province of BC has estimated that Metro Vancouver Municipalities will need to spend $9.5 billion between now and 2100 to address rising sea-levels (about $100 million per year on average).” The list could continue to add wildfires, the destruction of forests by the mountain pine beetle, drought, and extreme weather.
WCEL is not new to this issue, but rather have been active since the 2015 landmark Urgenda case in the Netherlands , when they released their report Taking climate justice into our own hands , which included a draft Climate Compensation Act . The new website, Climate Law in Our Own Hands maintains a blog about legal actions around the world, including a November 2016 report about 420 “grannies” in Switzerland who are working with Greenpeace Switzerland to launch a legal challenge against the Swiss government for inadequately addressing threats to their health and future generations from climate change. Other high profile court cases underway include the challenge to stop Arctic drilling by Norweigian youth and Greenpeace in Norway , and the ongoing cases led by Our Children’s Trust against the U.S. federal and state governments. The federal case, Juliana v.United States first launched in 2015, and most recently (November 10, 2016) has been permitted to proceed to trail, after Judge Ann Aiken issued an opinion and order denying the U.S. government and fossil fuel industry’s motions to dismiss . The 21 plaintiffs, mostly teenagers, are suing for the constitutional right of future generations to live in a healthy and safe environment.