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BP’s spirit successfully exorcised from the Tate – for now…

Dearest brethren,

Monday saw extraordinary scenes as we joined Reverend Billy and the Church of Earthaluyah to exorcise the beast that is BP from the Tate Modern Turbine Hall. Filling the huge space inside the former power station with singing, clapping and chanting, crowds of people joined the Rev in a piece of protest performance art that was at times sombre, at times raucous, at times oily – and ultimately incredibly powerful. Watch the film (above) to find out what the hell we’re talking about.

We dedicated this action to our comrade Alex Lee, an amazing activist and all-round beautiful person, who recently died.

Meanwhile, things are hotting up across the pond. A group of prominent individuals, including Naomi Klein, Maude Barlow, James Hansen and our good friend George Poitras, have called on people across the US to take sustained direct action against the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline this summer. Activists in Montana were first off the blocks last week, with an occupation of the Governor of Montana’s offices.

Finally, the UK government is still blocking the inclusion of tar sands in the Fuel Quality Directive.
Grrrr. There’s going to be a lunchtime protest next Wednesday (27th) at Norman Baker’s London offices, where we will join with Avaaz, the Co-operative and others to hand in a petition of over 52,000 signatures. If anyone can make it, we’d love some support, so please email info@no-tar-sands.org for more details.

Earthaluyahs all round,

Jess, Sue and Emily

Reverend Billy leads mass exorcism in Tate Modern Turbine Hall over ‘taint’ of BP sponsorship


PRESS RELEASE  For immediate release

18 July 2011

Reverend Billy leads mass exorcism in Tate Modern Turbine Hall over ‘taint’ of BP sponsorship

American performance group and British artists, activists and art lovers congregate in call for gallery to end its relationship with oil company

Monday (18 July) Reverend Billy and the Church of Earthalujah choir joined with art activists, artists, Tate members and concerned members of the public at 17.30 in the Tate Turbine Hall to lay hands on Tate Modern and cast out the demon of BP’s oil sponsorship of the art institution.

An exorcism of the evil spirit of BP was performed in a special service in the Turbine Hall of the national gallery of international modern art. The Reverend Billy had an oil-like substance dramatically poured over his white suit by his gospel choir before being escorted out of the building. The gospel choir sung choruses of “Tate takes money from BP, and BP’s money is the devil.”

The event was brought to Tate by five different UK-based groups – Liberate Tate, UK Tar Sands Network, London Rising Tide, Art Not Oil and Climate Rush – all of which have staged multiple performance interventions and protests at Tate, part of a growing movement to rid public arts institutions from oil companies with negative social and environmental impacts all around the world.

Reverend Billy, the world famous preacher, said: “For 20 long years, BP has embedded its foulness deep within Tate, using the fair face of the arts to mask the stench of its true nature. Today the possession of this dark beast lurking within the bosom of one of our most cherished arts institutions is coming to an end.”

“While good-hearted, god-fearing gallery-goers glory in the miracle of art, the beast below is encircling the planet with its oily tentacles, destroying righteous communities, poisoning God’s beauteous creations, and bringing us all ever closer to the climate apocalypse. Art will soon be free of big oil interests. Eviction has begun. Brothers and sisters, it’s time to liberate the Tate!”

Chris Sands, a participant in the performance said: “When Tate takes money from the fossil fuel industry it is endorsing climate change rather than backing activity which moves us away from an environmental crisis that is already destroying lives and livelihoods. We have to ensure our public arts institutions are financed responsibly, transparently and ethically for the good of the art world and the planet.”

Tate and other public cultural institutions have seen long-standing public concern about their relations with oil companies. The numbers of artists involved have grown over recent years with many hundreds of artists publicly demanding Tate end links with BP, and guerilla art performances adding to creative protests in Tate galleries. The exorcism comes less than a week after a ‘guerilla ballet’ performance took place at the BP-sponsored Big Screen in Trafalgar Square, highlighting the oil company’s involvement in destructive tar sands extraction in Canada.

BP continues to use its arts sponsorship to project a public image at odds with its operations and lobbying. As part of a multi-million pound effort to create a social license to operate, the company has launched its first television advertising campaign since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill which centres on its arts, culture and sports sponsorship in an attempt to alter public perception about the company.

*** ENDS ***

For further comment, call 07847 830164

Photos of the exorcism for commercial available through Rex Features.

Notes to editors:

The Guerilla Ballet performance took place on Wednesday evening in Trafalgar Square shortly before the BP-sponsored screening of the Royal Opera House’s Cinderella. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2011/jul/15/dance-oil-industry-arts-funding-ballet-bp

Reverend Billy and the Church of Earthalujah (www.revbilly.com) is part theatre piece, part church service, part performance art and wholly inspirational. The Church of Earthalujah condemns the corporate exploiters and polluters of the world to the Lake of Hellfire.

 

Liberate Tate (www.liberatetate.org) is an art collective exploring the role of creative intervention in social change dedicated to taking creative disobedience against Tate until it drops its oil company funding. Contact: liberatetate@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScr www.twitter.com/liberatetate.

UK Tar Sands Network (www.no-tar-sands.org) campaigns in partnership with Indigenous communities affected by the Tar Sands oil developments in Canada. It targets UK and European companies, banks and governments involved in the world’s most destructive project. Contact info@no-tar-sands.org.

London Rising Tide (www.londorisingtide.org.uk) takes creative action on the root causes of climate chaos, and promotes socially just, ecological alternatives to the fossil fuel madness that we’re living through. Contact: london@risingtide.org.uk

Art Not Oil (www.artnotoil.org.uk) encourages artists – and would-be artists – to create work that explores the damage that companies like BP and Shell are doing to the planet, and the role art can play in counteracting that damage. Contact info@artnotoil.org.uk.

Climate Rush (www.climaterush.co.uk) is a Suffragettes-inspired group taking responsibility now to prepare for the future through direct action against climate criminals and their allies. Contact: media@climaterush.co.uk.

Trading blows: tar sands critics in Brussels face-off with Canada’s PR machine

Trading blows: tar sands critics in Brussels face-off with Canada’s PR machine

On 12th July the UK Tar Sands Network organised an event at the European Parliament: ‘Trading Tar Sands: How the Canada-EU free trade agreement will affect social and environmental policy in the EU and Canada’. We found that tar sands are a hot topic in Brussels right now, given that the EU-Canada free trade negotiations (CETA) are in town, and the disagreement over whether or not to include tar sands in the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive has reached boiling point.

The meeting was co-hosted by two MEPs, Keith Taylor (Green, member of the Trade Committee) and Kriton Arsenis (S&D, member of the Environment Committee), and a good number of other MEPs turned up. Inevitably, so did Canada. Jeanette Patell, who works on Economic and Trade Policy at the Canadian mission sat blank-faced making furious notes, as the speakers subjected her country’s actions to a devastating and comprehensive critique. It can’t have been a comfortable experience.

Keith kicked off, explaining that the CETA negotiations are the most ambitious trade talks either party has ever attempted, and outlined two particularly worrying aspects. The first is Canada’s request to include an investor-to-state dispute process, which would grant investors new legal rights to challenge perfectly legitimate public health policies, such as attempts to better regulate tar sands development for social or environmental reasons. He called for the investor-to-state dispute mechanism, which could set a dangerous precedent, to be removed from the negotiating table.

Secondly, he pointed to the need for the Fuel Quality Directive to accurately reflect tar sands’ high greenhouse gas emissions. “It is vital that within the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), tar sands should be allocated a value that accurately reflects the greenhouse gas emissions that are emitted during production and use,” he said. “At present, certain factions within the European Commission are hesitating to take this important step, due to the enormous pressure exerted on them by the Canadian government, as well as by supporters of the Canadian position, such as the UK. This attempt by trade negotiating partners to undermine crucial EU climate policy is simply unacceptable and the Commission must stand firm.”

Jess Worth from the UK Tar Sands Network expanded on the second point. She put the tar sands in context, explaining that they are essentially a carbon bomb that humanity cannot afford to detonate. Nevertheless, Europe’s modest attempts to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels used across the continent are being attacked by Canada, which does not want the EU to assign a greenhouse gas value to tar sands that recognizes its significantly higher emissions, because this would strongly discourage its future use in Europe and set a precedent for similar legislation being passed around the world.

She urged MEPs to fight back, and rebutted the main arguments that Canada is currently using:

  1. As EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard has stated, the FQD is not a discriminatory measure against tar sands. The FQD sets greenhouse gas values for other non-conventional sources of petroleum too, such as biofuels and coal-to-liquid, and is open to including more as they become commercially viable. The EU is also open to differentiating between the different GHG intensities of different sources of conventional oil.
  2. This is certainly not unfairly singling out Canada – it applies to all sources of tar sands oil, whether from Venezuela, Russia or, in the future (unless we stop it), Madagascar, Congo, Trinidad & Tobago and others.
  3. The tar sands greenhouse gas value that the Commission has set is based on sound, peer-reviewed science.
  4. The EU imports only a very small amount of tar sands oil at the moment, via Texas. But if the Keystone XL pipeline gets built, Europe could become a significant market for dirty oil. It’s therefore very important the EU gets this policy passed soon.
  5. If we don’t, and carry on lumping together tar sands oil with conventional oil its much higher emissions will be hidden and this will undermine the whole aim of the Fuel Quality Directive, which is to reduce the EU’s emissions from transport by 6% as part of its Kyoto commitments.

Jess then handed over to Dr John O’Connor, the physician from Alberta who was Fort Chipewyan’s doctor and first raised the alarm over the high incidence of rare forms of cancer hitherto unseen in the largely indigenous population living downstream from the tar sands. For his pains, the authorities tried to take his license away. He did not mince his words.

‘The Canadian government has been purposefully misleading the world about the harmful health impacts of the tar sands for years,’ he explained, detailing the complete lack of effort by the government to undertake credible health studies to look into whether the industry was in fact affecting public health. ‘There is now no doubt that it is,’ he revealed, and this has been backed up by several independent scientific studies into pollutants in the water and local environment. ‘Canada has no moral credibility any more,’ he concluded. ‘Canada is a health hazard.’

Jasmine Thomas, from Saik’uz First Nation, which is a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance in British Columbia spoke with passion and power about the opposition to tar sands developments from many First Nations across the affected regions. She argued that the legal baiss for Canada’s tar sands developments rest on shaky legal foundations, given the unique legal rights that Indigenous communities have to be consulted about what happens on their traditional territories. These rights are currently not being upheld by the companies operating in the industry and the provincial and federal governments, and the industry is therefore currently subject to several lawsuits from First Nations. CETA, she fears, could further erode those rights. ‘The rights of oil corporations should not be prioritized over the Aboriginal and Treaty rights of the local First Nations,’ she stated, and ended with a quote from her grandmother, an elder and traditional healer: ‘If we look after the Earth, it will look after us. If we destroy it, we’ll destroy ourselves.’

Jasmine was followed by Scott Sinclair, a trade expert from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He detailed the ways in which CETA could undermine attempts to regulate the tar sands, either by the Alberta and federal government, or by pressure from outside investors and markets such as the EU. The main concern is the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, which would allow investors and corporations to take governments to unaccountable closed tribunals if they felt a piece of regulation interfered with their ability to make profits. This currently exists under NAFTA, and Canada wants it included in CETA, despite having lost several cases brought by US corporations that successfully challenged Canada’s own environmental regulations under the same mechanism. This could make future regulation of the activities of European oil companies and investors in the tar sands far more difficult if not practically impossible, argued Scott. The best way to avoid this risk would be not to include an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism in the agreement at all.

He also suggested that, given Canada’s history of aggressively lobbying on the issue, it would be completely reasonable for the EU to insist on a ‘reservation’ within CETA that would ensure that the Fuel Quality Directive could not be challenged through the agreement.

Scott was followed by Stuart Trew, Trade Justice campaigner with the Council of Canadians. Stuart outlined the growing opposition to CETA within Canada amongst trade unions and environmentalists, and how the concerns relate not just to tar sands but to local procurement, labour rights, and, especially, water. He emphasized once again the path that Canada has chosen – that of becoming an ‘energy superpower’ – which lies behind so many of its actions these days.

There was then an opportunity for people to ask questions. Now it was Canada’s turn to have its say. We were expecting a powerful onslaught we would need to respond carefully to. Instead, Jeannette came up with a series of complaints that were weak, had already been refuted, or side-stepped the most pressing issues that had been laid out.

Firstly she claimed there is no tar sands fuel currently coming into the EU – which Jess had already pointed out is not true. Jeanette clearly hasn’t read Greenpeace’s ‘Tar Sands in your Tank’. This was her basis for claiming that the EU was ‘singling out one source of oil and ignoring others’, which Jess had also already explained is not accurate – the Fuel Quality Directive sets targets for other unconventional feedstocks as well as tar sands, and is explicitly set up to be able to add more further down the line.

She totally side-stepped the issue of Aboriginal rights being violated and the legal challenges currently underway from First Nations by simply stating that ‘10 per cent of oilsands workers are aboriginal’. Oh well everything must be fine then.

On the health impacts of tar sands so devastatingly laid out by Dr O’Connor, she admitted she wasn’t an expert and wasn’t in a position to refute anything he said. She did half-heartedly read out a bit of text from a Royal Geographical Society health study that had found no conclusive proof that there was a link between contaminants in the water and cancer, elegantly ignoring the numerous studies that have concluded that there is.

Her final riposte, as Keith asked her to wind up, was that Canada is not aiming to become an ‘energy superpower’ but a ‘clean energy superpower’! General disbelief and derisive chuckles swept the room.

The meeting was closed by co-chair Kriton Arsenis MEP, who set the record straight (again) on the Fuel Quality Directive by laying down a challenge to Jeannette: ‘Name the other sources of fuel we don’t have a value for and we’ll go after them!’ He reiterated the Environment Committee’s firm commitment to see a tar sands value in the FQD – otherwise, he said, MEPs will not vote for it. He also expressed his shock at the wide-ranging potential reach of CETA and its threat to sovereignty. He called into question the advisability of entering into another legally-binding treaty with Canada, given that it has already broken its commitments under the Kyoto protocol. “This is a chance to call upon Canada to change its current policy and comply with international agreements that we commonly sign, but Canada doesn’t always respect,” he concluded. “It is unthinkable to consider that a country which provocatively violates a legally binding climate change agreement that we have jointly signed could be a reliable partner in any other agreement.”

So it seems that Canada’s reputation is currently hitting new lows in the European Union. We also understand that later that day the CETA negotiations stalled. There is a critical internal EU meeting this Friday to try and make some headway on the Fuel Quality Directive, and it seems both sides are entrenching their positions ever more firmly. It’s impossible to say, at this stage, which side will prevail.

We will be watching closely as events unfold. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for latest updates, or sign up to our email list for a newsletter every week or two.

Photos and videos from Brussels»

‘Guerilla Ballet’ disrupts BP-sponsored opera event in Trafalgar Square

Swan Lake ballet dancer smeared with oil

Wednesday 13th July, 2011 – For immediate release

BP White Swan from You and I Films on Vimeo.

Three ballet dancers interrupted BP’s third and final Summer Screen in Trafalgar Square[1], 30 minutes before the scheduled broadcast of the opera Cinderella began. The disturbance took the form of a short piece of dance based on Swan Lake [2], with the classic tale used as analogy for BP’s controversial investment in the Canadian tar sands [3],[4]. The performance featured the White Swan being smeared by an oily substance and suffocated with a cloth. The crowd of opera-lovers were very receptive, greeting the grand finale with applause and cheers.

Charlie Byers, who played the prince, explained: “The tar sands are one of the biggest threats to the future of our climate [5]; they are also destroying local communities and wildlife, trampling indigenous rights, and running Canada out of water and natural gas. It is a key time to pressure BP to withdraw, as the corporation has already substantially invested in the tar sands but will not start profiting for years to come.”

Emily Coats, a campaigner with the UK Tar Sands Network, who played the White Swan Odette, said: “Most people have never heard of tar sands, and BP would be happy to keep it that way. We used classical dance – an unusual campaigning medium – to introduce the issue to a new audience. The performance was meant to be enjoyed, but also to shock, with a visible struggle between a vulnerable creature and a powerful oil giant.”

Will McCallum, of campaign group Art of Activism, who played the ‘BP’ villain Rothbart, said: “By sponsoring the Summer Screens, BP is bringing art to thousands of people, but it is also creating a false image which hides its dirty investments. Public pressure has in the past caused institutions to stop accepting sponsorship from destructive companies. Without being able to put its name by our beloved cultural institutions, BP would suffer a real blow to its public legitimacy.”

ENDS

Images from last night’s event now on Rex Features website and available for media use.

Notes for editors:

[1] BP sponsors the Royal Opera House’s “Summer Screens” where ballets and operas are broadcast live in public spaces around the UK, including Trafalgar Square, for audiences to watch for free. The scheduled performance on 13th July was the opera Cendrillon (Cinderella).

[2] For a full synopsis of the piece, see bpwhiteswan.org

[3] BP announced in December 2010 its investment in the Sunrise Project, shared with Canadian company Husky Energy. Extraction is due to begin in 2014. http://www.no-tar-sands.org/campaigns/british-petroleum-bp/

[4] Canadian tar sands are the world’s largest and dirtiest industrial project: exacerbating global warming through deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, causing rare forms of cancer amongst First Nations communities, destroying vast tracts of forest habitat and threatening wildlife to extinction. For more information see no-tar-sands.org and oilsandstruth.org

[5] NASA Scientist James Hansen has said that irreversible climate change is inevitable if all the oil in Canada’s tar sands is burned. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/feb/17/barack-obama-canada-climate-change

High res images available – email info@no-tar-sands.org

Shining a light on Europe’s role in the Tar Sands

UK Tar Sands Network and friends are in Brussels for the Canada-EU trade talks.

Tar Sands Protest outside Canada Europe Trade Talks from UK Tar Sands Network on Vimeo.

The tar sands may be being extracted in Canada, but the debate over the industry’s future is raging in Europe this week. On Monday 11th July, the next round of Canada-EU trade negotiations (CETA) began. These secretive talks could give dangerous new powers to European oil companies and investors wanting to override social, environmental and Indigenous concerns to make big bucks in the tar sands. Even more immediately alarming, CETA threatens to overturn a key piece of European climate legislation, the Fuel Quality Directive. Both sides are squaring up for a face-off this week…

Jess interviewed by Reuters outside the CETA negotiations

So we got up bright and early on Monday morning, to greet    all the Canadian and European trade negotiators as they arrived at their unobtrusive backstreet venue. We were joined by various friends from Canada: Jasmine Thomas, an indigenous woman from the Yinka Dene Alliance in British Columbia; Dr John O’Connor, the community doctor who first blew the whistle on the high levels of rare cancers being found in the community of Fort Chipewyan, downstream of the tar sands – and his wife Charlene; Stuart Trew, trade justice campaigner with the Council of Canadians; as well as a group of climate activists from Brussels and the Netherlands.

The trade negotiators looked like they had never been subject to a protest before. They probably hadn’t. These types of trade deals invariably take place behind closed doors, with no public scrutiny, though corporate lobbying is rife. We were able to hand each negotiator our briefing on CETA and the tar sands, which we hope focused their minds at the start of a long week’s wrangling.

Then we headed to the Canadian Mission to the EU, to join more friends for a ‘Tar Sands Lobbytour’. Co-organised with Corporate Europe Observatory, the tour visited some of the hotspots of tar sands lobbying in Brussels. We stopped at each location and heard from speakers from Canada, the UK and Brussels who shone a light on the behind-the-scenes influence being wielded in favour of this most despicable of industries.

We started at the Canadian Mission to the EU.  Canada has pulled out all the stops in the last 18 months to ensure that the EU does not pass a key piece of climate legislation – the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD).  The FQD would discourage highly carbon-intensive fuels from being used in Europe – a de facto ban on tar sands. Canada is trying to use the free trade negotiations to persuade Europe to put the FQD on hold and has formed a European ‘oilsands task-force’ to work with industry and lobby decision-makers at all levels to promote the tar sands industry. Needless to say, the Canadians were not pleased to see us. The police kept us away from the building, and then tailed us for the rest of the tour!

Undeterred, we continued to our second stop – the UK representation to the EU. They were even less pleased to see us and tried to kick us off ‘their’ pavement. But we stood our ground and said our piece, because whilst most member states support the inclusion of tar sands in the Fuel Quality Directive, the UK is blocking it, merrily toeing the Canadian line that this is ‘unfair discrimination’ against the tar sands, which is blatant stalling because the FQD also puts carbon values on other types of fuel. The UK is also enthusiastically pushing for a comprehensive business-friendly CETA.

We then popped around the corner to BP’s European HQ. BP recently took the decision to enter into its first tar sands extraction project, despite opposition from shareholders and civil society.  It has been highly influential in shaping – and weakening – EU climate policy over many years.

The next leg of our tour found us at the European Commission, and specifically DG Trade which has incestuous links with big business and consistently acts in their interests not those of society or the environment. It recently blocked DG Clima’s attempts to include tar sands in the FQD, citing concerns that it would jeopardise the EU’s chances of signing a successful CETA agreement with Canada.

Our final stop was outside the European Parliament. Whilst many MEPs have expressed their opposition to tar sands fuel entering Europe, the Parliament has a history of being receptive to corporate lobbying. The European Energy Forum is an influential grouping of MEPs that works with Commission staff, oil companies and lobby groups to champion the interests of the energy industry in general, and tar sands in particular. They also organise tours for MEPs to ‘educate’ them about how great different energy projects are around the world. Their next trip? They’re off to Alberta in August!

Our tour ended on a positive note with Jasmine reminding us that although we’d been to the belly of the beast we are up against today, when we work together and resist these powerful forces we are also powerful. She ended on a traditional song, and we made our way off into the sunshine, much better informed and more determined than ever!

Tomorrow we are meeting with MEPs at the European Parliament. Watch this space…

Tar Sands campaigners challenge Canada-EU trade talks

Campaigners will gather in Brussels next week at the start of the latest round of Canada-EU free trade negotiations, to call for the talks to be put on hold due to concerns that they will boost Europe’s involvement in Canada’s destructive tar sands industry.[1]

On Monday they will hold a ‘Lobby Tour’[2] of the offices of organisations who have been pushing to get further rights for European oil companies to exploit the controversial oil source, and undermine the EU’s ability to pass effective climate policy, such as the Fuel Quality Directive.[3] On Tuesday they will participate in a meeting co-hosted by Keith Taylor MEP and Kriton Arsenis MEP in the European Parliament.[4]

Jasmine Thomas, an indigenous woman fighting a proposed tar sands pipeline across her territory in British Columbia [5] and Dr John O’Connor, a local doctor who first blew the whistle on the increased levels of cancers in communities living downstream from the tar sands [6] will be joined by the UK Tar Sands Network and Council of Canadians, as well as activists and NGO representatives based in Brussels.

Jess Worth, from the UK Tar Sands Network – who is meeting with UK Government trade officials on Friday 8th July to express these concerns in advance of the talks – said:

‘The negotiations are in full swing, yet most citizens have never heard of them. Climate scientists have warned that further tar sands extraction could lock us into disastrous and unstoppable climate change, but Europe is sleepwalking into major involvement with the project. In the last few months we have seen extraordinary levels of lobbying from the Canadian government and oil companies, and threats that Canada will take legal action if the EU passes the Fuel Quality Directive, which would ban tar sands imports from Europe. This level of meddling is unacceptable.’

Jasmine Thomas, a community member from the Yinka Dene Alliance working with the Indigenous Environmental Network, said:

‘More then 80 Indigenous Nations in British Columbia have banned tar sands and its related infrastructure from crossing their traditional territories and watersheds. Our communities stand in solidarity with the Cree, Metis, and Dene communities of northern Alberta who are opposed to extraction projects that threaten the fundamental rights of First Nations. We are united in exercising our inherent title, rights, and responsibilities to ourselves, our ancestors, our descendants and the people of the world, to defend these lands and waters. Our laws require us to do this. CETA will only undermine these rights, which are also protected under domestic and international law.’

Dr John O’Connor, a local doctor who has seen first-hand the devastating health impacts of living downstream from the tar sands, added:

‘The Canadian government has been purposefully misleading the world about the harmful health impacts of the tar sands for years. It’s important that the EU does not succumb to their misinformation on this issue. As more and more cases of rare cancers and other diseases are discovered in communities living downstream from tar sands extraction projects, we need Europe to play its part in curbing this destructive industry, not getting more heavily involved through trade agreements.’

Stuart Trew, Trade Justice Campaigner for the Council of Canadians, said:

‘Beyond the incessant lobbying from the Canadian government, the trade deal on the table poses a direct threat to climate policy in the EU and Canada. Proposed investment protections in CETA will give European oil companies like Shell, BP and Total a new legal right to challenge attempts to better regulate tar sands development for social or environmental reasons. In the past few years we’ve seen cigarette companies, pesticide makers and mining firms use trade treaties to sue governments over perfectly legitimate public health policies. Communities impacted by corporate activity have no equivalent right to hold firms responsible under trade agreements. These concerns were echoed in a recent European Parliament debate and resolution on the Canada-EU trade deal. [7] Without a major re-write to exclude unnecessary investment rights, Europeans and Canadians must reject CETA.’

- Photo opportunity: 10am, Monday 11 July, Mission of Canada to the EU, Avenue de Tervuren 2, Brussels.

- For more information, interviews and photos call Suzanne Dhaliwal, UK Tar Sands Network, +44 7772 694327.

ENDS

  1. This is the eighth round of EU-Canada free trade negotiations (CETA), which are due to be completed by the end of this year. Beginning 11th July and lasting a week, this is the most ambitious free trade agreement either party has ever negotiated. A legal analysis (http://www.canadians.org/trade/documents/CETA/legal-opinion-CETA-tarsands.pdf) of the potential impact of CETA negotiations reveals that it could undermine climate policy in Europe and give dramatic new powers to Europe’s multinational oil companies. For example, the European Commission has asked Parliament for permission to negotiate an investor-to-state dispute process that would allow EU companies to sue the Canadian government in the event future regulations, water use limits or other environmental protections interfere with their profits. Likewise, Canadian companies will be able to take otherwise legitimate and legal EU decisions before non-transparent arbitration panels with the power to hand out fines. The Canadian government has said negotiating an investor-to-state dispute process is one of its most important objectives in CETA. The chill effect from this process is enough to discourage governments from pursuing effective climate and environmental policy.
  2. The lobby tour will begin at 10am at the Canadian mission to the EU, where there will be a photo opportunity. For more information, see: http://www.no-tar-sands.org/events/lobbytour/
  3. For more information about Canada’s lobbying around CETA and the Fuel Quality Directive see:http://www.neurope.eu/articles/Canada-talks-dirty-on-trade/106814.php
  4. The event, entitled ‘Trading tar sands: how the Canada-EU free trade agreement will affect social and environmental policy in the EU and Canada’ takes placeon Tuesday 12 July, 12.30-2pm, Room ASP 5E1, European Parliament. Speakers will describe in detail the social, health, indigenous and environmental impacts of tar sands development, as well as popular efforts to transition to a tar sands-free future, and how CETA could undermine this. The discussion will be co-chaired by Keith Taylor MEP (Greens/EFA) and Kriton Arsenis MEP (S&D). For more info: http://www.no-tar-sands.org/events/trading-tar-sands/
  5. Jasmine Thomas is a member of the frog clan from Saik’uz British Columbia, Canada. She is strongly opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project that plans to cross through her own and 52 other First Nations unceded traditional territories in British Columbia and Alberta.
  6. Dr. John O’Connor is a family physician, practising in Alberta since 1993. Currently based in Edmonton, he has provided primary care services to Aboriginal communities in the far north of the province including Fort Chipewyan since 1994. In 2006, his concerns regarding high cancer numbers in Fort Chipewyan, which is downstream from the tar sands, began to draw media attention. He was subject to a sustained smear campaign before subsequent health studies were released that backed up his concerns.

For the full text of the resolution, see:http://www.canadians.org/tradeblog/?p=1649

Dodgy trade deals, royally oily hats & an exorcism

Dear Euro-stars,

We’re off to Brussels next week, as the latest EU-Canada trade talks kick off. We’ve got a hectic schedule planned, including meetings with MEPs and a protest tour of corporate lobbyists. Then when we get back we are going to attempt an exorcism of the Tate Modern, to expel the beast that is BP, with our good friend and spiritual leader Reverend Billy.

The past week has seen the UKTSN in every major Canadian newspaper as we co-launched a range of very cheeky tar-themed haute couture hats to coincide with Will and Kate’s first state visit to Canada.

Meanwhile, some positive news on the international tar sands front – it looks like Total’s attempts to start destroying Madagascar in the name of dirty oil has had a major set-back. Hurrah! More on all this below…

Earthalujah to you all!

Jess, Sue and Emily x

PS. Petroleum Economist website recently published an article that misrepresented our campaign on the Fuel Quality Directive quite spectacularly. Our rebuttal has been published by them today

1. Stop the Tar Sands Trade Talks

On Monday 11th July, the latest round of shady negotiations between the EU and Canada for a free trade deal (CETA) begin in Brussels. We are concerned that these negotiations could greatly increase Europe’s involvement in the tar sands industry,  giving more power to oil companies like BP, Shell and Total to overturn social and environmental regulations in their quest for the nasty black stuff, and threatening EU climate policy such as the Fuel Quality Directive. So we are going there, with our friends Jasmine Thomas from the Indigenous Environmental Network and Stuart Trew from the Council of Canadians, to raise these issues in a variety of ways, including:

− a protest outside the negotiations themselves
− a ‘Tar Sands Lobbytour’, visiting the offices of those who’ve been lobbying so hard to get tar sands into Europe, including the Canadian government, oil companies and industry associations
− a meeting inside the European Parliament, hosted by supportive MEPs, to highlight the ways in which CETA could affect Europe’s ability to curb environmentally damaging industries like the tar sands

2. Exorcise your right to protest

Brothers and sisters, a dark beast lurks within the bosom of one of our most cherished cultural institutions. While good-hearted, god-fearing gallery-goers glory in the miracle of art, the beast below is encircling the planet with its oily tentacles, destroying righteous communities, poisoning God’s beauteous creations, and bringing us all ever closer to the climate apocalypse.

And the name of that beast is BP.

For 20 long years, BP has embedded its foulness deep within the Tate, using the fair face of the arts to mask the stench of its true nature. On Monday 18 July,  @ 5:30 pm join Reverend Billy and the Church of Earthalujah, www.revbilly.com along with UK Tar Sands Network, Liberate Tate, Rising Tide, Climate Rush and Art Not Oil as we lay hands on the Tate Modern, and cast out the evil demon of BP’s oil sponsorship.

The Reverend Billy & The Church of Earthalujah will also be performing in London the previous evening (17th July) at Conway Hall. UK Tar Sands Network will be there and can promise you an amazing evening that is part theatre piece, part performance art and wholly inspirational. Join us!

Info here:

3. Haute Couture Tar and Feathering!

Last week we teamed up with Environmental Defence to make sure that royal newlyweds Will and Kate didn’t get a one-sided view of Canada on their current Royal Tour. A snazzy website and Grazia banner ads launched a range of Haute Couture hats for Kate. With a cheeky and fun nod to Canadiana, they highlighted how – in the pursuit of becoming a petro-powerhouse – Canada is no longer the peace-loving, green nation it used to be. Hats for Kate was lots of fun and we managed to reach some suprising new audiences. We were in nearly every Canadian newspaper and even got interviewed by Canadian TV!

4. Oil giant Total pauses Madagascar tar sands plans

Our friends at the World Development Movement have some good news: French oil company Total has paused its plans to mine tar sands in Madagascar! It will, however, continue its exploratory work in one of the country’s poorest regions.

Almost 1,300 people emailed Total’s CEO Christophe de Margerie in June, aiming to influence Total’s decision on mining in Madagascar. Total began to test-mine tar sands in the Melaky area of Madagascar in 2008, but this June the company’s licence to drill was due to end. It had to decide whether to move on to full scale mining of the tar sands or to abandon the project.

We now know the mining has been put on hold.

Total’s business partner, Houston-based Madagascar Oil, announced last week that the two companies would not start full-scale mining, but will continue to test for the viability of both conventional oil and tar sands extraction.

Madagascan campaigners fear that that the tar sands would disrupt and poison the water supply of up to 120,000 people in the country’s Melaky area and threaten its unique biodiversity. Campaigner Holly Ratokondralambo visited Europe from Madagascar in May to gather support for her campaign against the project, speaking to politicians, journalists and campaigners. ‘International support gives us strength,’ she said.

The Madagascar tar sands are safe in the ground – for now. Madagascar Oil has admitted the economics just don’t stack up. But Holly will need more international support to ensure that Total abandons its mining project, permanently.

Help keep the pressure on by emailing Total.