Letter to Susan Kramer on the Fuel Quality Directive

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On Tuesday, we and eight other organisations, as part of the ‘Keep tar sands out of Europe‘ coalition, sent the following letter to the new Minister of State for Transport, Susan Kramer. It urges her to act now to keep tar sands oil out of Europe by supporting the implementation of the Fuel Quality Directive, which would label tar sands and other unconventional fuels as more polluting than conventional oil and discourage their use in Europe.

The full text of the letter, and signatories, is below. You can help put pressure on the new Minister by sending this e-action to your MP, asking them to sign EDM 240 and write to the ministers involved in making the decision.


Letter to Susan Kramer, 29 October 2013

Dear Baroness Kramer,

Implementing the Fuel Quality Directive with separate default emissions values for tar sands and other unconventional fuels

Congratulations on your new role as Minister of State for Transport. We are looking forward to working with you over the coming months, and are writing to you to highlight a key challenge in your new portfolio – the swift implementation of the EU Fuel Quality Directive.

As you will be aware, the Fuel Quality Directive was passed by member states in 2009, and included a commitment to reducing the lifecycle greenhouse gas intensity of transport fuel across the EU by 6% by 2020, compared with 2010 levels. It required that by 2011 suppliers report to authorities designated by member states on the greenhouse gas intensity of the fuel they supply. However, implementation of this reporting clause – Article 7a – is still pending. The process has been dogged by a series of delays, the most significant being a stalemate following a Council of Ministers vote in 2012, which resulted in the Commission undertaking a comprehensive impact assessment to inform a new implementation proposal, which we are hoping to see any day now.

Much of the controversy behind these delays has stemmed from the proposal to label fuels by their different feedstocks, which means that more carbon-intensive fuels, such as that derived from tar sands, oil shale and coal-to-liquid would be given a higher default value than conventional oil. This is a sensible and science-based approach, which would discourage the most highly-polluting fuels from entering the European market in large quantities, thus aiding us in reaching our emissions reductions targets in the transport sector.

We understand from meetings with your predecessor Norman Baker that the UK government prefers a more highly-differentiated approach, assigning default values to the whole range of conventional crudes entering the EU market. While we agree that this more nuanced approach should be a future aspiration of the FQD, it is not yet practicable as the data to underpin this differentiation does not yet exist. Meanwhile, with European elections fast approaching, if the Commission does not release its new proposal soon, there will not be enough time for member states to consult and then vote on it before further delays set in. And if that vote again ends in stalemate due to lack of support from larger member states such as the UK, there is a real risk that the whole process could grind to a halt, and this important piece of climate legislation will remain an aspiration rather than becoming a reality.

The world is watching what the UK and EU do on this issue. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, the International Energy Agency calculates that two thirds of known fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground. It is vital that major markets such as the EU develop policies that discourage the use of the most polluting fossil fuels, in order to make the transition to a low carbon economy and have a decent chance of avoiding temperature rises of above 2 degrees. To this end, earlier this month, 21 Nobel peace and science laureates, including Archbishop Tutu and members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, wrote to President Barroso and EU Environment Ministers calling for immediate implementation of the FQD, and its application to fuel from tar sands and other unconventional sources. The timing is crucial, because it is looking increasingly likely that tar sands oil may soon be flowing to the EU in large quantities, via the Keystone XL Southern portion, the various new pipelines to the East Coast of Canada that are being proposed, and from other countries such as Madagascar.

Furthermore, the extraction of unconventional fuels brings with it significantly higher local pollution and negative impacts for local communities. In his last week in the post, your predecessor met with George Poitras, former chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, who lives in the community of Fort Chipewyan directly downstream from Canada’s tar sands developments. He explained to the minister that pollution from tar sands extraction was undermining local Indigenous peoples’ ability to pursue their traditional lifestyles, affecting the water, air, animals, birds and fish. This in turn is resulting in a higher incidence of cancer and other serious diseases amongst members of his community, and undermining their constitutionally-held treaty rights to hunt, fish and trap on their traditional territory. He concluded: ‘Right now, foreign policies like the Fuel Quality Directive will have a significant impact on the fate of our people. Our people can’t wait for further deliberations – we’re at a crossroads in our history as to whether we survive.’

Therefore, in order to move forward on implementing Article 7a, we urge you to do the following:

1. Write to EU Climate Commissioner Hedegaard, expressing your support for the swift publication of the Commission’s impact assessment and new proposal, in order for Member States to vote on it in the next few months.

2. Vote in favour of the Commission’s proposal if it clearly labels tar sands and other unconventional fuels from different feedstocks as more polluting, on average, than conventional oil.

3. Advocate for a review clause in the FQD that would mandate further differentiation between the carbon intensities of different sources of conventional oil in the future, when such data becomes available.

We would be grateful if you could find the time to meet with us to discuss these issues further.

Yours sincerely,

Fiona Brookes, Joint National Coordinator, Campaign against Climate Change
Isabel Braithwaite, National Coordinator, Healthy Planet
Eleanor Clegg, Coordinator, Pembrokeshire Friends of the Earth
Louise Hazan, Climate Change Campaigns Manager, People & Planet
Marco Cadena, Coordinator, Push Europe
Clare Wood, Assistant General Secretary, Quaker Peace & Social Witness
Jess Worth, Co-Director, UK Tar Sands Network
Kirsty Wright, Senior Campaigns Officer, World Development Movement
Max Lees, Communications Coordinator, Young Friends of the Earth



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