The Ontario NDP recently introduced Bill 21, Liability for Climate-Related Harms Act, 2018. This private members bill would impose strict liability on fossil fuel producers for damages arising from climate change harms, including:

  • economic loss or physical loss of property, infrastructure, structures, resources or other assets;
  • costs associated with obtaining and maintaining insurance in respect to such losses;
  • death, injury, illness or other physical or psychological harms and costs associated with treating or caring for persons suffering from them;
  • ·ocean acidification;
  • loss of land or damage to infrastructure due to rising sea levels;
  • costs of monitoring, research and analysing the climate and the weather;
  • costs of responding to emergencies arising from natural disasters associated with climate change;
  • costs of constructing, renovating, repairing or improving infrastructure in order to minimize such harms and costs; and
  • costs of carrying out public education campaigns to inform the public about reducing and avoiding such harms and costs.

Bill 21 also addresses the evidence needed to prove causation for losses arising from climate change. The Bill provides that where it is alleged that a particular weather event, food or other event was caused by climate change, evidence that climate change has doubled the likelihood of that type of event occurring is sufficient to demonstrate, on the balance of probabilities, that the event was caused by climate change or that climate change worsened the impact of the event.

Climate change lawsuits have been filed in other jurisdictions. In January of this year, the New York City government filed suit against the world’s five largest publicly-traded oil companies seeking compensation for present and future damage to the city arising from climate change. In 2017 in California, two coastal counties and one coastal city filed similar lawsuits against fossil fuel-producing companies for damages related to rising sea levels.

Bill 21 has passed first reading. Its future will likely be determined by the upcoming provincial election.