Canadian Government Tar Sands European Lobbying Exposed!

Great new report out by Friends of the Earth exposing the extent to which Canada has been up to its neck in lobbying meetings in the UK and the rest of Europe. We have been watching as these efforts have increased in the last year from selling Carbon Capture Storage technology as a miracle solution to full on trying to block EU climate policy.

Read the FOEE report to see the full extent of these lobbying efforts!

From The Guardian Thursday 4 August 2011:

Canadian government accused of ‘unprecedented’ tar sands lobbying

Friends of the Earth Europe claims ministers have attempted to undermine European fuel legislation that would affect exports

The Canadian government has been accused of an “unprecedented” lobbying effort involving 110 meetings in less than two years in Britain and Europe in a bid to derail new fuel legislation that could hit exports from its tar sands.

The allegation comes from Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE), which claims Ottawa ministers have attempted to mislead European decision-makers by underplaying the carbon-heavy nature of their crude in assessing new petrol standards.

“The Canadian government must disclose the genuine GHG [greenhouse gas] footprint of tar sands and stop making false promises. It should take serious measures to address the negative nature of tar sands,” recommends the group in a new report entitled Canada‘s dirty lobby diary – undermining the EU fuel quality directive.

The lobbying effort, which includes dozens of meetings between Canadian and British government “representatives” and oil executives, was triggered by the release of a consultation document in July 2009 by the European commission, which attempted to definitively assess the “well-to-wheels” carbon intensity of different oils.

The document attributed a “default” carbon value for traditional fuels of 85.8g of carbon dioxide per mega joule of energy for traditional oil and 107gC02/MJ for fuel derived from tar sands.

The Canadians have managed to delay the EU’s original deadline of January 2011 for confirming baseline default values despite new peer-reviewed studies to support the European position.

Darek Urbaniak, extractives campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “It is unprecedented that a government of one of the most developed countries can devise and implement a strategy that involves undermining independent science and deliberate misleading of its international partners.”

“The Canadians are asking for further research and further delays. This tactic is reminiscent of the tobacco industry in its attempt to delay action on health,” said the FoEE report.

Relatively little fuel from the Alberta tar sands currently ends up in Britain or on the continent, but the Canadians have made clear their real concern is that European legislation will encourage the US to take a tougher line.

A pan-European oil sands advocacy plan was established by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade last year. The main aims were to protect and advance Canadian interests in Europe and to ensure “non-discriminatory market access for oil sands-derived products”, according to documents seen by FoEE.

The Canadians are also said to have set up a special lobbying team in London and identified Shell and BP – two big tar sands investors – as “like-minded allies” in the struggle to have tar sands accepted.

Shell’s chief executive, Peter Voser, made clear last week at the company’s half yearly financial results that tar sands was one of the key areas of the business that was delivering production growth – both now and more in future. BP has also made no secret of its determination to pursue its interests in Alberta.

But FoEE is angry because it believes the Canadians are deliberately marketing tar sands as an environmentally friendly product by making references to initiatives – such as carbon capture and storage – to reduce the C02 emissions. During the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Canadian government spoke out about the safer operations in Alberta while the country’s democratic credentials have been compared with less savoury regimes where oil is extracted, argues FoEE.

“The overriding message is that Canada is not exporting dirty oil, but clean energy. One of the dirtiest fuels on the planet is being sold as clean, stable and secure.”

The Canadian government was contacted by the Guardian but did not comment.

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.

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.

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.


  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 ( 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:
  3. For more information about Canada’s lobbying around CETA and the Fuel Quality Directive see:
  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:
  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:


Dear giant petition-signers,

Thanks to everyone who came to London for Saturday’s International Stop the Tar Sands Day. If you organised something elsewhere, tell us about it!

1. International Stop the Tar Sands Day
2. Stop the UK blocking action on tar sands!
3. New briefing: ‘Stop Tar Sands Going Global’

Love and erratic weather,

Jess, Sue & Emily

1. International Stop the Tar Sands Day

Events took place around the world, gathering a storm of media. Lush stores across Europe covered people in molasses; People & Planet students up and down the UK performed ‘tarring and feathering’; and actions in Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand brought tar sands awareness to new outlets. See the international site for videos and photos of the day.

In London we were very focused on the UK’s involvement in blocking the inclusion of Tar Sands in the Fuel Quality Directive. See here for our write-up on the past few days including a video by Nancy Boulicault.

2. Stop the UK blocking action on tar sands!

Our giant petition from Saturday’s action got safely delivered to the Department for Transport on Monday. Minister for Transport Norman Baker’s getting pressure from all sides, but so far hasn’t shifted. Please add to the pressure by signing this Avaaz online petition to add to the 40,000+ people who have already expressed their concern about the UK blocking EU climate legislation.

3. New briefing: ‘Stop Tar Sands Going Global’

While Saturday may have sent a clear message that the world is watching Canada, we know that we can’t afford to let tar sands in other places slip through our fingers. We have launched a new briefing, outlining some of the likely countries being targeted for tar sands exploitation – unless we can stop it. See our resources page for more info, or download it directly.

Meanwhile, the World Development Movement (WDM) is leading the fight to cajole French oil giant Total out of the Madagascan tar sands. If you haven’t already, write to Total’s CEO.

International Stop the Tar Sands Day

Record turnout but the battle is not won!

International Stop the Tar Sands Day saw unprecedented numbers of tar sands protests taking place simultaneously in cities across the globe. In London we gathered  by the Canadian High Commission, to shame the Canadian government for its aggressive lobbying against Europe’s Fuel Quality Directive.

In between poking leaflets into open taxi windows and stopping our banners flying into the traffic, we heard from a selection of incredible speakers. Malaika Aleba from Alberta, Canada, shared her personal horror story of visiting the tar sands. Danny Chivers likened the tar sands industry to a nicotine addict stowed away on someone else’s spaceship using up the last of their oxygen supply to fuel his dirty habit. Our own Jess Worth gave us hope by explaining the EU’s current opportunity to ban tar sands, coining the new, if not quite so catchy, chant ‘If I say Fuel Quality, you say Directive!’

A sombre procession across the street saw dying flowers laid on the steps to acknowledge the lives lost and landscapes damaged from Canada’s reckless action. People and Planet activists also performed ‘tarring and feathering,’ where an ‘investor’ covered an activist with molasses and feathers, for daring to challenge the tar sands industry.

Owing to the concern that the UK is one of only two member states blocking the move to ban tar sands from Europe, a giant petition was signed declaring ‘You’ve taken Canada’s brown envelope, now take ours!’

While the day was cut short by a hail storm, the mood remained lively, and the action continued into Monday, when the petition was hand-delivered to the Department for Transport. While we were unable to meet with Norman Baker personally, we were assured the petition would be passed on. Since then an Avaaz online petition has been set up, which already has over 40,000 signatories.

More excellent photos of the day are available here, thanks to our friends at demotix, and here, thanks to Pete Riches. See also Nancy Boulicault’s video of the day and  Pete Speller’s video of tarring and feathering.

Thanks to everyone who came, and especially to Pete Barker for all his hard work in the run-up and on the day itself. The battle to keep tar sands oil out of Europe is not going to be an easy one but there is hope and we will keep you updated!



Monday 20th June – For immediate release

Following Saturday’s International Stop the Tar Sands Day (1) demonstration, protesters today will deliver a petition (2) to the Department for Transport, challenging the UK’s opposition to including tar sands (3) in the Fuel Quality Directive (4).

An explicit reference to tar sands in EU legislation would ensure this highly polluting form of oil is banned from entering the European Union, a move to reduce carbon emissions which is widely supported by MEPs, the European Commission and most EU member states. Yet furious Canadian lobbying has sought to remove any mention of tar sands, watering down the legislation significantly. The UK is one of only two member states which has succumbed to this position (5).

Pete Barker, organiser of the London demonstration on Saturday which saw protesters gather at the Canadian High Commission, says, “Norman Baker has shown his green credentials in the past, but if he doesn’t support a European tar sands ban then he’s failing the so-called ‘greenest government ever’s biggest test so far.”


Photo opportunity: 12.45pm Monday 20th June, Department for Transport, 76 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DR

Contact for interviews: Pete Barker, 0796 775 8641

Notes to Editors:

(1) International Stop the Tar Sands Day (see saw events in 30 countries around the world raising awareness of the most destructive project on Earth. In London protesters gathered outside the Canadian High Commission, laying flowers to commemorate the death and destruction caused by the tar sands industry.

(2) The spoof ‘brown envelope’, stuffed with fake cash and covered by signatures, declares ‘YOU’VE TAKEN CANADA’S BROWN ENVELOPE, NOW TAKE OURS!’

(3) Tar Sands fuels emit on average 23% more carbon than conventional oil, For more information on tar sands and their environmental and social impacts see

(4) The EU’s landmark Fuel Quality Directive aims to reduce the carbon emissions of the transport sector by 6% by 2020 and in its amended version would identify tar sands oil as above the acceptable CO2 cap for fuel imports.

(5) Under the direction of Norman Baker, the UK government, in addition to the Netherlands, intends to block the amended Fuel Quality Directive:

Canadian government and UK Transport Department targeted on global day of action against tar sands

Press Release

Friday June, 17th 2011 – For immediate release

Protesters in London will target Canada’s High Commission on Saturday June 18th to mark the second annual International Stop the Tar Sands Day [1]. Flowers will be delivered to the commission commemorating the communities, wildlife, and landscapes that have been damaged by tar sands extraction. Using vast amounts of fresh water and natural gas, and leaving behind lakes of toxic pollution, the Canadian tar sands are the world’s largest and dirtiest industrial project. Canada’s tar sands extraction is 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 [2].

The June 18th call to global action aims to raise international awareness that oil made from Canada’s tar sands is not a viable alternative to conventional petroleum [3]. Pete Barker, UK Organiser for International Stop the Tar Sands Day, says: “There are international protests today to expose how Canada is using aggressive lobbying techniques to push tar sands onto foreign markets, blocking international climate policies [4], violating First Nations rights and risking runaway climate change by ignoring the warnings of climate scientists. In an age of declining conventional oil reserves and rising greenhouse gas levels, we cannot afford to continue to extract tar sands if we are to respond to climate change. We have to show the Canadian government that the global community believes that exploiting the tar sands is unacceptable.”

Tar sands oil has not so far entered Europe but many major European oil companies like Norway’s Statoil, Netherlands/UK-based Shell, and France’s Total Oil are currently operating in the tar sands, with BP recently investing in its first project to begin operations in 2014. Jess Worth, from the UK Tar Sands Network, says: “The EU is not guaranteed to remain free from tar sands oil unless it can actively seek to ban the substance. The Fuel Quality Directive [5] should have such an effect, by discriminating different types of fuel based on their carbon intensity.

However, the UK government has caved into Canadian lobbying, and is campaigning to water down the landmark legislation by removing the reference to tar sands. Failure to address tar sands emissions undermines the whole objective of this legislation to reduce Europe’s transport emissions”

Protesters will sign a giant petition addressed to Norman Baker, Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department for Transport who is responsible for the UK government’s intention to oppose the inclusion of tar sands fuels in the Fuel Quality Directive [6]. The petition will be hand-delivered by activists to the Department for Transport on Monday 20th June.

The International Stop the Tar Sands protest will also include a friendly game of ‘Oily World Volleyball’, illustrating that Canada is gambling with the future of the planet by devastating entire ecosystems for the pursuit of unconventional oil [7]. Emily Coats, from the UK Tar Sands Network, says: “As well as stopping further development in Canada, we must act now to prevent oil companies from exploiting other tar sands sources around the world. Currently, French oil giant Total, which has been running trial projects in tar sands fields in Madagascar, is currently considering beginning large scale exploitation of tar sands, and we urge them to abandon the project [8].”


Photo opportunity: Canadian High Commission, Grosvenor Square – 12:15 pm

For interviews contact: Peter Barker, International Stop the Tar Sands Day Organizer – +447967758641

Notes for editors:

[1] Actions will also be taking place in universities around the UK where activists will be getting ‘tarred and feathered’ Similar events are planned in Berlin, Lisbon, Copenhagen, The Hague and Brussels, along with 25 protests in the US and 12 in Canada

[2] For more information on tar sands and its environmental and social impacts see

[3] Lush cosmetics and the Indigenous Environmental Network organized protests across Europe to coincide with the international protests.

[4] See Canada Spurns Kyoto in Favour of Tar Sands

[5] The Fuel Quality Directive is a piece of EU legislation that sets out to reduce European transport fuel emissions by 6% by 2020 by encouraging the use of lower carbon fuels. Tar sands fuels emit on average 23% more carbon than conventional oil.

[6] See British Government is unlikely to support an EU push to include tar sands in its new fuel directive

[7] See for Stop the Tar Sands Going Global briefing launched by UK Tar Sands Network

[8] The World Development Movement campaigning against French corporationTotal to stop tar sands developments in Madagascar. See

Tell your MEP to Keep Europe out of the Tar Sands!

Few people realise that the UK government, in partnership with the EU, is in the midst of negotiating an ambitious trade deal that could boost Europe’s involvement in the world’s most destructive project, the Canadian Tar Sands.

The deal, if signed, could allow Tar Sands oil imports into Europe and give dramatic new powers to Europe’s multinational oil companies. It could trample over Indigenous rights in Canada and undermine a range of social and environmental legislation on both sides of the Atlantic.

The proposed Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), if completed as planned, threatens to undermine stricter Tar Sands regulation in Canada and stronger climate policies in Europe. Canada is already threatening to pull out of the trade talks if the EU doesn’t water down a key piece of European climate legislation – the Fuel Quality Directive.

Just as controversial is CETA’s ‘investment chapter’ that would grant Canadian and European companies the right to sue governments when environmental policies interfere with their profits. You can find out more about CETA here.

Rather than give more power to European oil giants, the UK Tar Sands Network is working with Canadian civil society and Indigenous organisations to demand that the CETA negotiations should be halted immediately, until the following concerns have been addressed:

1. Ensure public scrutiny and consultation

2. Keep Tar Sands oil out of Europe

3. No new rights for corporations

4. Social and environmental laws come first

5. Get European companies out of the Tar Sands

6. Respect Indigenous rights

You can take action on this issue, write to your MEP by clicking on the link below:

Is the EU about to ban Tar Sands?

Dear Tarsandsisters and Brothers,

We’ve (almost) got some amazing news… It’s looking increasingly like the EU might be on the verge of banning tar sands from Europe! But it’s not a done deal yet.

We know that Canada and Big Oil have been lobbying furiously behind the scenes to try and water down the key piece of EU climate legislation in question, known as the Fuel Quality Directive. But ever since we invaded the Department for Trade [link] to insist that current Canada-EU trade negotiations should not get in the way of EU climate policy, and then kicked up a stink in Brussels with our Indigenous, Canadian and European partners,[link] things have been moving pretty quickly.

Here’s the latest we’ve heard [link]. We’ve never got excited about an EU Directive before but the implications of this are so huge that we guess there’s a first time for everything. As soon as there are any further developments we’ll tweet and Facebook it, so if you’re not already our friend, liker or follower, please do join our virtual gang! No Tar Sands on Facebook and No Tar Sands Tweets .

In the meantime, if you haven’t already signed the Tarnished Earth petition to keep tar sands oil out of Europe you can do so here: We need to keep the pressure on until the decision is done and dusted.

While we’re watching and waiting, we’re not twiddling our thumbs. Ohhoho no. We’re getting revved up for the BP AGM, and another First Nations speaker tour in April – woohoo! Below are some dates for your diaries. Please email us at [email protected] to let us know which you would like to be involved in.

Love and momentous EU bans,

Jess, Sue and Emily

Cool stuff coming up:

19th March – Become a Shareholder Activist

The wonderful FairPensions are organising a training day for anyone wanting to attend a company AGM, come face to face with its top directors, and call them to account. Sessions include: ‘What does it mean to be an activist shareholder?’, ‘Why is this form of campaigning so effective?’, and a specific planning session for the BP AGM, run by us! To book a place please RSVP to [email protected] or 020 7403 7800.

13th-20th April – First Nations Speaker Tour

We are currently laying plans to bring representatives from two First Nations communities directly affected by the tar sands over to the UK for a week. We have got lots of plans up our sleeves, and are also looking for suggestions and offers as to where they could visit and what they could do while they’re here, so please let us know if you would like them to come to you and whether you can help organise an event.

There are two dates that are fixed so far:

14th April – BP AGM

Going into the tar sands. Spreading oil across the Gulf of Mexico. Drilling in the Arctic. Being best mates with Gaddafi. There are just so many reasons to be mad at BP. At the AGM, the BP board will finally come face to face with their many critics. If you want to be involved, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

20th April – Day of Action against Extraction

To mark the anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill, Rising Tide North America have called a day of action: April 20th 2011 – Rising Tide – Day of Action Against Extraction

Stick it in your diaries and start planning what you’re going to do! More info will follow.