UK complicit in Canadian government’s Dirty Diplomacy

March, 8th 2012

Secret government documents reveal that the UK is implicated in a major, multimillion dollar push by the Canadian government to promote tar sands internationally, and undermine key EU and US climate legislation. The revelations come in a report released by Climate Action Network [1], the day after hundreds of people gathered outside more than 20 Canadian diplomatic missions across the world to voice concern about the Canadian government’s aggressive foreign policy to further the interests of the tar sands industry.

The documents [2], acquired through freedom of information requests, reveal that the UK government is described by the Canadians as a ‘team leader’ in their Pan European Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy, aimed at stopping the EU from labelling tar sands fuel as more carbon-intensive than conventional oil in the Fuel Quality Directive. As part of this pro-tar sands lobby offensive, Canada hosted a two-day retreat in London for Canadian diplomats to receive training on how to respond to the plummeting reputation of the tar sands industry in Europe. In attendance at the retreat were the Royal Bank of Scotland, Shell, Statoil and Total, all of which have significant investments in tar sands development.

As a result, the UK has been actively lobbying EU member states to keep the EU market open to tar sands. At a recent vote on the Fuel Quality Directive, the UK was set to vote against the initiative. It switched position at the last minute and abstained, due to intense public pressure, but this meant that the vote was a stalemate, further delaying adoption of this important piece of legislation.

The UK government has become Canada’s whipping boy in this international tar sands PR offensive,” said Suzanne Dhaliwal of the UK Tar Sands Network. “It is unacceptable that the UK is working to promote the interests of the tar sands industry rather than supporting desperately-needed action to reduce emissions from the filthiest transport fuels.”

The Canadian Government is working hand in hand with the tar sands industry in a campaign to ensure nothing stands in the way of the reckless expansion of this highly polluting oil,” said Hannah McKinnon, Campaign Director with Climate Action Network Canada. “In the era of dangerous climate change, this campaign is an offensive attack on countries, Canada’s First Nations and citizens that recognize the urgent need to move away from dirty energy towards the safe and clean energy future the world needs.”


[1] Dirty Oil Diplomacy – The Canadian Government’s Global Push to Sell the Tar Sands outlines the changing domestic and international policies of the Canadian government as they undermine EU and US climate policies in order to ensure international markets for Canada’s filthy fuel. The report was released by Climate Action Network Canada, Environmental Defence Canada, Equiterre, Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the U.S. Sierra Club.

[2] Access to Information request # A-2010-02237, Pan-European oil sands team mid year report, (August 10, 2010).

Access to Information request # A-2010-02237, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Memorandum for information to the Ministers’ of International Trade and Foreign Affairs,Oil Sands Engagement in Europe, (March 3, 2010).


Vigil outside the Canadian High Commission in London




  1. People in the UK and Canada need to work together to push our corrupt Canadian government and its Oil friends out of the way. There are many people in Canada who do not support the tar sands, and the number is increasing day by day. You’re doing a great job UK protesting, keep at it!!


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