CETA – Keep Europe out of the Tar Sands!

Currently very little tar sands oil is flowing through UK petrol pumps. Yet few European citizens are aware that our governments are in the midst of free trade negotiations, known as CETA, that could significantly boost Europe’s involvement in the world’s most destructive project.

Luckily the EU is also in the process of passing the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD). This legislation could ensure tar sands are strongly discouraged from entering the EU because of their high carbon-intensity – an effective ban on increased imports of the dirty fuel. However, aggressive lobbying from the Canadian government and oil companies is aiming to block this move.


What is CETA?

The proposed Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) threatens to undermine stricter tar sands regulation in Canada and stronger climate policies in Europe. The deal could pave the way for increased tar sands oil imports into Europe and give dramatic new powers to Europe’s multinational oil companies. It could trample over Indigenous rights and undermine a range of social and environmental legislation on both sides of the Atlantic.

Perhaps most controversially, CETA includes an ‘investment chapter’ that would grant Canadian and European companies the right to sue governments when environmental policies interfere with their profits. Similar rules in NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) have already been used extensively by US firms to challenge environmental and resource-related policy in Canada. Canadian firms have also used these tools in other bilateral trade deals to attack environmental and mining-related decisions by foreign governments. Several EU-based oil companies including Shell, BP and Total already have major investments in the tar sands and would benefit from the proposed CETA investment rules. Under these rules, any attempt by a Canadian government to regulate the extent or pace of tar sands development by EU-based companies would be vulnerable to challenge.

Furthermore, Canada has been invoking CETA to argue that the Fuel Quality Directive, if passed to include tar sands, would be an illegal trade barrier. In order to protect the EU’s ability to make strong effective climate policy, CETA must include a clause that carves out the FQD and future EU climate legislation, so that it is protected from any such legal challenge.

Read more: Scott Sinclair from Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives explains how CETA could boost the tar sands industry and prevent future governments from enacting effective environmental legislation.

See also our CETA briefing.


Recent Action

  • We hosted a delegation of civil society representatives from Canada and helped them lobby UK decision-makers, during their one-day stop in London, part of a European lobby-busting tour.
  • A Climate Action Network report revealed the Canadian government’s dirty lobbying tactics, including the close collaboration with the UK government.
  • On the eve of the publication of the CAN report, we joined people across Europe and the US standing vigil outside Canadian consulates. In our case it turned into an impromptu demonstration, when a very relevant meeting was held inside the High Commission.
  • On Valentine’s Day, the lovely people of Lush had an oil orgy on Cornmarket Street in Oxford to highlight the UK Government’s refusal to support the FQD.
  • Emily cornered Norman Baker to ask why he refuses to support the FQD. His response was unhelpful, as usual.
  • With our friends from South Coast Climate Camp, People and Planet, Lush, and Friends of the Earth Lewes, we targeted Norman Baker in his local constituency, complete with a roaming tar monster.
  • Along with several other organisations we delivered an Avaaz petition containing 52,000 signatures to UK Minister for Transport Norman Baker, demanding the UK supports the inclusion of tar sands in the Fuel Quality Directive.
  • We used International Stop the Tar Sands Day as an opportunity to call the UK government to account for bowing down to Canadian lobbying.
  • We worked with the Council of Canadians on a Lobby-busting tour to make sure that European decision-makers are aware of Canadian support for the EU Fuel Quality Directive.

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