Foreign Funding in Canada’s Climate Liability Movement

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According to researchers like Vivian Krause from Fair Questions  and organizations like Energy In Depth , there has been sustained efforts to hinder the production of hydrocarbons in Canada and the United States among other regions of the world. In Canada alone, Krause has noted the hundreds of millions of dollars being funneled to environmentalists and activists from private foundations in the United States and elsewhere. One of the most prevalent actors that has taken part in this misinformation campaign are the Rockefellers and their numerous private foundations including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Rockefeller Family Fund.

A major movements that have occurred alongside the “Keep It In The Ground” campaign are the #ExxonKnew  campaign and in Canada, the Tar Sands campaign. Unaware of these movements, Canada’s industry sat in the dark on the nefarious actions of this funding scheme towards radical activists attempting to disrupt Canadian energy development. While the Tar Sands campaign has been relatively successful at land locking Canadian resourcing and stopping energy development, Climate Litigation has become a new trend that has spilled over from the United States into Canada. These law suits aim at acquiring damages from oil and gas companies to offset the costs of dealing with what these activists call “climate disasters”. There’s no doubt that emissions have caused or are at least a part of the formula for changing climate, however, tort litigation has a litany of issues that would inhibit true justice for environmental harm. The precedence being used is similar to the “Big Tobacco” law suits of the 90’s in the manner of strategy and type of tort used such as the doctrine of public nuisance.

Energy In Depth recently took a look at the Rockefeller Brothers involvement in climate litigation movements and uncovered that they were the primary manufacturers of this campaign that began in 2012 when the #ExxonKnew movement kicked off at a private conference hosted by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Climate Accountability Institute. There they looked at ways to paint the oil and gas sector in a negative light much like the campaign against tobacco companies. Through an interconnected strategy of academia, media and funding, the Rockefellers have helped spur a movement of lawsuits in the United States and a garnering movement here in Canada.

One of the main proponents of climate litigation in Canada is British Columbia based West Coast Environmental Law. They have been directly funded millions of dollars by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and aim to get Canadian cities to sign onto suing the 20 largest oil and gas companies in order to hold them “accountable” to the emissions of their products. In late March, Toronto almost joined the ranks of Victoria and other cities around Canada that have been persuaded by WCEL to pursue legal action. While there are currently no filed suits in Canada yet, it probably won’t be long until this type of tort ends up in the Canadian Courts. There is some good news however because court cases in Oakland and San Francisco have been struck down by judges due to the nature of tort law, which is not a replacement nor an appropriate method for solving public policy issues like climate change. However, when these cases do reach our courts here in Canada, Oil and Gas companies should be prepared to deal with this expensive legal lip-service.

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