Toronto could be the next major city to file a climate liability suit to recoup climate costs from the fossil fuel industry. Photo credit: City of Toronto
Toronto became the latest city to explore possible litigation to make fossil fuel companies pay for the costs of climate change, joining an accountability movement spurred by cities in North America.
The city council’s Infrastructure and Environment committee passed a motion on Thursday that had been filed by City Councillor Mike Layton in March. It directs the city to consider suing greenhouse gas emitters for billions of dollars in adaptation and repairs cost to confront the challenges of increasing extreme weather events, like the floods that swept the city in 2013, and other climate impacts.
“It had gotten to a point where it was kind of a white noise in the background, ‘Yes, we have to do something about climate change.’ It became so abstract. And then it all changed when I had kids and started realizing that we’re actually running out of time,” Layton said during a debate preceding the vote.
Layton said climate change will present the city with budget challenges in the years to come.
”We have to make sure that those that are profiting pay their fair share,” he said.
The motion asks the city staff to report back to the city council about the cost of making the city resilient to extreme weather events, which have grown more frequent and more damaging with rising global temperatures. The city can then seek compensation for those costs in litigation.
“For decades and decades, there has been an industry that has been made out of blurring the line between greenhouse gasses, fossil fuels and climate change—much like they tried to blur the line between cancer and smoking,” Layton said.
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