B.C. Supreme Court hands down precedent-setting ruling on climate accountability case brought by environmental groups
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 17, 2023
VANCOUVER/UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) TERRITORIES – Today, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled on a landmark 2022 climate case brought by Ecojustice on behalf of Sierra Club BC. In the case, Sierra Club BC alleged that the B.C. government failed to adequately report on its progress to reach its climate targets, as required by the province’s climate law.
In a first-of-its-kind victory for climate accountability in Canada, the court ruled that the reporting requirements of B.C.’s climate law, including the provision to report on plans to reach climate targets, are enforceable by the court. This sets an important legal precedent not only for B.C., but also across Canada, as it means that climate change accountability legislation can be interpreted and enforced by courts when governments fail to meet reporting requirements.
The Court also agreed that B.C.’s progress to date on meeting its climate targets has been “disappointing” and that the province has a “consistent history of missing its targets”. However, this court found that the legislation does not require the government to tell the people of B.C. whether it is on track to achieve our climate targets. Sierra Club BC has 30 days to decide whether to appeal this decision and will continue to strongly advocate for true climate accountability in British Columbia.
The Court’s ruling today puts the B.C. government and others across Canada on notice that legal commitments to act big on climate must be followed by real and meaningful action.
Alan Andrews, Climate Program Director at Ecojustice said:
“Today’s decision doesn’t change the fact that B.C. is not on track to meet its 2025 and 2030 climate targets and has several gaping holes in its climate plan. This law was supposed to put an end to the province’s dismal track record of missed targets by requiring the government to tell British Columbians if B.C. is on track so that the public can hold them to account. This is an opportunity for Premier David Eby to show real leadership by urgently coming forward with a credible plan that gets B.C on track to meeting its climate targets – the urgency of the climate crisis demands it, even if the courts don’t.”
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner and Science Advisor at Sierra Club BC said:
“Today’s ruling contains good news, bad news and an inconvenient truth. The good news is that the court agreed with us that people in B.C. have a right to hold their government accountable to follow its climate law. The bad news is that the Court finds the B.C. government’s reporting to be sufficient to meet the law’s requirements, even though that reporting does not tell us whether B.C. is actually on track to meet all of its climate targets. The inconvenient truth is that without greater transparency and stronger action plans, people in B.C. cannot trust that this province will meet its climate targets and prevent even more catastrophic climate impacts.”
Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.
Sierra Club BC is an environmental non-profit working to support people stewarding abundant ecosystems and a stable climate, while building resilient, equitable communities. The organization strives to do this by upholding Indigenous rights and title, reconnecting children and youth with nature, supporting grassroots-led climate action, and advocating for old-growth protection.
Eric Wright, Communications Manager | Ecojustice
Jens Wieting, Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner | Sierra Club BC