How can the tar sands be stopped?

  • Leave the oil in the ground: every barrel of tar sands oil extracted is doing damage. Rather than letting governments and oil companies make weak promises about how they will improve the environmental footprint of their tar sands extraction, we need a complete moratorium on new tar sands projects, and a commitment to shut down existing ones.
  • Reduce the market for oil: the introduction of energy efficiency measures, behavioural change, carbon taxes, and government legislation like the Fuel Quality Directive will have the combined effect of making tar sands extraction more expensive and less attractive for oil companies. Current battles against the Keystone XL and Enbridge pipelines are also making it harder for tar sands to be exported. Without expanding export markets tar sands production won’t be able to triple as planned.
  • Cut off the funding: a lot of these companies are financed by European banks, the most prominent in the UK being the 83%-taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland. Additionally, banks can be targeted to ensure minimum standards are met. For instance, the Royal Bank of Canada has been pressured into adopting an indigenous rights policy, meaning it will not lease money to companies unless Free, Prior and Informed Consent is obtained from communities before projects begin (though it is not clear, of course, how well this will play out in practice…)
  • Change the framing of the debate: oil companies might get some bad press when things go wrong, but for the most part people are largely accepting of their right to operate as they like. As we start holding oil companies to account for their narrow-minded focus on extracting the last drop and refusing to embrace the reality of climate change, the oil industry will start to be seen for what it is. One step is to prevent oil companies from associating themselves with positive public endeavours like Britain’s cultural institutions and the Olympics.
  • Join the resistance: a lot of the communities in areas near oil developments lack support to fight against large companies, yet often have the most power to stop projects before they take off. We can help by working in solidarity with affected groups around the world, amplifying their voices, and supporting their campaigns, demands and lawsuits.
  • Make it illegal!: If a new international law of ‘ecocide’ is adopted by the UN, CEOs of tar sands companies could be tried and charged under international criminal law for crimes against peace.


How can I help?

See how you can get involved. Whatever your time constraints and commitments, there is probably some way you can help out.

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