The Canadian Government and Big Oil are working together to promote the tar sands industry and weaken climate legislation throughout the world. They are particularly targeting Europe. A primary battleground is the EU Fuel Quality Directive.
The Fuel Quality Directive
The EU is negotiating a Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) with the aim of encouraging the use of low-carbon transport fuels and discouraging the use of high-emission fuel. It aims to reduce Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions from road transport by 6% before 2020.
An independent study concluded that oil from tar sands produces 23% more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude. Based on this, the EU wants to label tar sands oil as more polluting than conventional oil, which would have the effect of strongly discouraging tar sands imports into the European market. As a result, the Canadian government is fighting it tooth and nail, largely due to the precedent this would set for other important markets – such as US states. It could also discourage planned tar sands extraction projects in other parts of the world, such as Madagascar.
The Canadian government began by trying to call the science into disrepute, insisting tar sands oil is no more polluting than conventional oil, and invoking the spectre of a legal challenge for unfair discrimination at the World Trade Organisation. Once the EU had secured a peer-reviewed study confirming the highly carbon-intensive nature of tar sands extraction, Canada switched tack and began stalling the FQD by claiming tar sands shouldn’t be singled out until every other possible source of transport fuel is measured for carbon-intensity. This argument was misleading as other fuels are also being included in the FQD. But a lot of countries, including the UK, bought it, as well as erroneous arguments about ‘unfair administrative burdens’ on importing companies.
When it came to a vote in February 2012, enough major countries voted against or abstained to stall the process. Under pressure from environmental campaigners, the UK switched its vote from ‘no’ to ‘abstain’, which was a small but significant victory against the dirty diplomats. The EU is now undertaking an impact assessment, which will lead to a new proposal and another vote some time in the first half of 2014.
Find out more:
The Tar Sands Threat to Europe: How Canadian Industry Plans Could Undermine Europe’s Climate Goals An NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) report, published in January 2014, showing that if Europe does not act, its imports of tar sands would likely skyrocket from about 4,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2012 to over 700,000 bpd in 2020.
- The lowdown on dirty tar sands diplomacy We name names and point outraged fingers in this summary of the shady goings-on behind embassy doors
- Keeping their head in the sands: Canada’s EU Fuel Quality Directive lobby diary A play-by-play look at Canada’s FQD lobbying over several years
- CETA The Canada-EU trade deal that could boost Europe’s involvement in the tar sands industry
- We unveiled the Felt Impacts of the Tar Sands art installation outside of Canada House, as the delegates to the Canada Europe Energy Summit gathered.
- We challenged Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper when he came to the UK to lobby against the FQD.
- We turned up the heat on UK Transport Minister Norman Baker to start supporting the labelling of tar sands as highly-polluting in the FQD.
- We presented a petition with nearly 4,000 signatures to Nick Clegg’s office, urging the UK government to support the inclusion of tar sands in the FQD.
- We blockaded a meeting of Dirty Diplomats trying to promote the tar sands industry, with an ‘oil orgy’ performance-protest.
- We launched a report in November revealing that US company Valero may soon start importing dirty tar sands oil to the UK – exactly why we need the Fuel Quality Directive to be passed as soon as possible!
- Tar sands activists strangled in the streets! We took direct action against Canada and Shell’s lobbying at a climate change conference in London in October.