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Should big oil companies pay for climate change costs? 69% of British Columbians say yes

West Coast Environmental Law hopes to seize on support to form a future class action
Pumpjacks pump crude oil near Halkirk, Alta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal

The idea of suing big oil companies is gaining popularity in B.C. — and no, it isn’t over high gas prices.

A new survey from Stratcom Strategic Communications found 69 per cent of residents support suing big oil to hold them accountable for the costs of climate change.

It’s an idea promoted by West Coast Environmental Law, a Vancouver-based non-profit dedicated to protecting the environment through legal avenues. The organization recently convinced the City of Vancouver to join its “Sue Big Oil” campaign, voting to allocate approximately one dollar per resident to a future class-action suit.

Support for a lawsuit against oil companies is strongest among Green voters at 84 per cent, but the idea is also popular among NDP and BC Liberal voters at 76 per cent and 61 per cent respectively. Support was slightly lower among rural respondents at 60 per cent than urban at 70 per cent and suburban 70 per cent respondents.

READ MORE: B.C. can no longer wait to fight climate change after fires, floods, slides: minister

More than half of British Columbians polled said climate change is already negatively impacting them or someone they know. That group was the most likely to support legal action against big oil. While 55 per cent said climate change is impacting them now, only 4 per cent of respondents said they do not believe in climate change.

“After a year of heat waves, floods and wildfires fueled by fossil fuel pollution, more and more British Columbians recognise the true costs of the climate crisis and the need to sue big oil,” said Andrew Gage, staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law. “Just like the lawsuits against the asbestos and tobacco industries, we can hold the oil industry accountable for decades of deception to keep us hooked on fossil fuels, and for selling products that they knew would harm our communities.”

The survey was conducted with 807 BC adult residents from July 7th to July 12th, 2022 as part of Stratcom’s quarterly omnibus survey (BC Syndicated Polling) and was statistically weighted to match the gender, age, region and proportion of Chinese mother tongue as per the 2021 census. Online polls don’t report margin of error, however a similar sized probability sample would have a margin of error of +/ 3.4%, 19 times out of 20.

READ MORE: Record profits for oil companies should be invested in climate action: Guilbeault


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