Dear Law Foundation,
In chasing down the funding trail for the recent demand by Whistler’s mayor for Canadian Natural Resources to compensate the resort for climate change, I came across a pronounced pattern in funding that is a bit odd.
Your stated mission is “To advance and promote a just society governed by the rule of law, through leadership, innovation and collaboration.” You support many worthwhile programs, particularly for groups that may not otherwise have access to legal aid, advice, or guidance, but you also support a hard-edged collection of well-funded groups that seek to wreak havoc in climate change discussions by forcing the sensitive debate into a black-or-white, adversarial, and unhelpful direction.
You financially support a group called Ecojustice Canada Society, who is, among other things, attempting to launch legal proceedings against “climate change deniers.” You granted this group $190,000 in June 2018, and possibly more earlier. Ecojustice supports their actions with statements such as: “Groups, such as Friends of Science, pollute the public square with falsehoods and junk science, and undermine our ability to have an honest conversation about possible solutions to slow climate change…” Does Ecojustice sound remotely interested in “honest conversations about possible solutions”? Or more fundamentally, is trying to make free speech illegal aligned with the rule of law, or even collaboration?
Another group you support financially, West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL), received $470,000 in March 2018, and this group espouses similarly and completely improbable desires to have “honest conversations” while putting out promotional material such as: “Multinational fossil fuel companies are desperate to avoid a public conversation about their legal and moral responsibility for the effects of climate change – from rising sea levels to wildfires, droughts and other climate-related impacts…Fossil fuel corporations make billions in profits by selling products that are causing damage around the world.” And then making the familiar claim to be seeking to “generate a conversation about the role of the fossil fuel economy in harming our communities.”
As a Law Foundation, given that you handsomely fund such a consolidated and coordinated viewpoint, and that as a Law Foundation one would assume you are interested in a hearing of facts, how would you reconcile the fact fossil fuels provide life to your economies, that they could not exist without them? That fossil fuels provide heat to your communities? That fossil fuels enable every citizen of your province to live the standard of living that it does? It is quite likely that you can’t even imagine a world without fossil fuels because they are the building blocks of everything we use and consume.
Being a bit more blunt, here is a question that is hard to dance around: Would you prefer to see these groups succeed, and have natural gas deliveries be halted to the lower mainland in winter? Would you like to see jet fuel banished from Vancouver International Airport? No, of course they are not campaigning for those things directly, but their desire to financially ruin the petroleum industry would give you precisely those circumstances if successful (and holding petroleum companies financially responsible for extreme global weather events is undoubtedly designed to bankrupt them). So would not honest conversations start with the fact that life as we know it is impossible without fossil fuels? In direct contradiction to WCEL’s claims, don’t these fossil fuel companies have a moral responsibility to continue providing fossil fuels to heat Vancouver homes and fuel those planes?
Wouldn’t an honest discussion also consider where these fossil fuels come from, for the coming decades in which we won’t be able to live without them, particularly with regards to how much they damage the environment? That is, do they come from regions that provide no verifiable information whatsoever on their environmental footprint (such as Russia, China, Africa, and the Middle East, who in combination produce almost half of global production)? Would it not be useful to have a discussion about whether the world is better off sourcing fossil fuels from Canada rather than these jurisdictions? Is the world better off burning Canadian hydrocarbons, or Russian, from an environmental (or any other standard you care to choose) perspective?
And while we’re at it, the list of groups and organizations that you support seems to be lacking any substantial opposition to BC’s coal industry and exports, including the province’s habit of importing US coal to export from BC terminals because the US finds it bad for the environment to do so. This situation therefore begs the question: are the sponsored fossil fuel attacks an attempt to mitigate climate change, and if so why is there not a campaign against coal that is commensurate with the more significant damage that coal creates? Maybe you would like to finance a discussion about how much better natural gas is for the environment than coal, and how if we could replace China’s coal consumption with natural gas consumption the world would make amazing strides in meeting climate change target emissions reductions? What about funding a comparison of using BC’s own natural gas resources to warm China compared to their coal habit?
Great progress can be made in reducing our environmental footprint, and, despite claims by the groups above to the contrary, Canada’s petroleum industry is keenly interested in useful discussions (I cannot speak for Canada’s coal industry, which is centred in your province; perhaps one of your funded groups can pursue them), as evidenced by Canadian Natural Resources’ response to Whistler’s mayor. This same petroleum industry is also more well-versed in the actual consumption habits of Canadian citizens, and therefore has a perspective that is worth hearing. To say that Canada’s petroleum industry is “desperate to avoid a public conversation” is profoundly untrue. But the discussion should start with the current, irrefutable requirement for safe, secure energy supplies.
At the very least I suppose it would be great if you could explain what, in your view, the exact role of a Law Foundation should be, with respect to a fuel that keeps every citizen in your realm alive at present (without even getting into the abject mockery of Whistler deriding fossil fuels; a campaign which you funded). It would greatly enhance the credibility of your stated mission if you could answer the above questions directly, precisely, and unequivocally. I can be reached at the email below, or send directly to the BOE Report.
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