Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton was forced to backpace last week after a letter he sent to petroleum producers seeking cost of climate change led to a new dusk in the ongoing Canada-Canada conflict on fossil fuels.
The letter of Crompton led to a quick protest from someone in Alberts's energy industry, leading to cancellation of travel plans and a decision to cancel part of an investor conference in Whistler. The mayor said he sincerely regretted that someone would feel unwelcome in his resort.
For experts, the outgoing letter illustrated at the local level shows several broad trends that coincide in the conversation about climate change, while the powerful reaction it led to was an indication of how the polarized debate has become.
Whistler was not alone in requesting payment from producers. More than a dozen other B.C. Municipalities recently voted to join a campaign led by environmental legislation on the West Coast to ask oil and gas companies to step in on the costs that local authorities pay for climate change. The company did not respond to a request for comments by Sunday.
Kathryn Harrison, Professor of Political Science at the University of BC, said the campaign was in line with a broader strategy to shift attention from those who use fossil fuels to those who produce them and to account for these climate change costs. It also comes as municipal governments around the world take up vocal roles on the environment.
"They are not typical governmental levels that have the authority and responsibility to assume things like carbon pricing and emission control standards … but they're the ones in the front to adapt to climate change and costs," Harrison said.
In the Canadian context, the strategy tends to focus on oil companies "targeting Alberta" because it is the heart of the nation's oil and gas industry, she said.
Adam Pankratz, an adjunct professor at the Sauder School of Business, said he would be surprised if oil producers did not feel as if their industry is under attack and that it is not recognized for its importance in the Canadian economy.
"Everyone acknowledges that a climate tax and coal pricing comes… But in that environment, it does not mean that they must also tell them they are responsible for all Whistler's wicked," said Pankratz.
He said he found the strong reaction from industry interesting. "There are these two loneliness that do not seem to want to talk to each other, but ultimately. It only shows the almost white-faith nature of this debate."
Among the municipalities that have joined the campaign is West Vancouver under the West Coast Environmental Law. A form printed on stationery from the district mayor's office and published on the Environment Agency's website requests that industry receivers pay a financial contribution to mitigate climate change. The letter was neither addressed nor signed, but it was addressed to Mayor Mary-Ann Booth, who could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
"It is our position that you have played a key role in deteriorating the global atmosphere and creating a host of threats to our society. Your contribution is easy to discover globally and is therefore considered to be legally significant and feasible," read the letter.
"(As) We undertake to plan and build and modify our infrastructure and services and develop a society capable of meeting current and anticipated climate change, we ask you to pay your fair share of the costs incurred. "
Squamish, Victoria, Saanich, North Saanich, Colwood, Highlands, Visa Royal, Sooke, both the city and district of Powell River, Sechelt, Castlegar, Rossland and Slocan were all listed by the West Coast Environmental Law which voted to send " unclear how many actually made letters.
Lisa Helps, Mayor of Victoria, sent a letter to Chevron asking for the company to pay 3.34 percent of the city's climate-related costs ahead. This letter was published on the West Coast Environmental Law website.
"Climate change is the direct result of pollution caused by fossil fuel combustion, including from your products," she read signed letters.
"You can not make billions of dollars selling your product because you know it is causing great financial damage to communities around the world and does not expect to pay for at least part of that damage."
Letters of responses received by the municipalities from BHP, Total and Shell were also published on the West Coast Environmental Law website.
"BHP approves climate change climate change (IPCC), which has found that climate warming is unambiguous, human influence is clear and physical consequences are inevitable," wrote Fiona Wild, BHP Billitons vice president sustainability and climate change. "As a leading global resource company, we are determined to play our role in managing climate change."
Manoelle Lepoutre, Total Deputy Vice President of Civil Society Commitment, said Total was always ruled by compliance with laws and regulations.
"In view of the above, we believe that Total can not be held responsible for the consequences of climate change."
Editor's Note: Allan Holt is not the mayor of Sechelt, which has been reported incorrectly in the past. Holt ran to mayor but was not chosen.