Shining a light on Europe’s role in the Tar Sands

UK Tar Sands Network and friends are in Brussels for the Canada-EU trade talks. The tar sands may be being extracted in Canada, but the debate over the industry’s future is raging in Europe this week. On Monday 11th July, the next round of Canada-EU trade negotiations (CETA) began. These secretive talks could give dangerous […]

UK Tar Sands Network and friends are in Brussels for the Canada-EU trade talks.

The tar sands may be being extracted in Canada, but the debate over the industry’s future is raging in Europe this week. On Monday 11th July, the next round of Canada-EU trade negotiations (CETA) began. These secretive talks could give dangerous new powers to European oil companies and investors wanting to override social, environmental and Indigenous concerns to make big bucks in the tar sands. Even more immediately alarming, CETA threatens to overturn a key piece of European climate legislation, the Fuel Quality Directive. Both sides are squaring up for a face-off this week…

Jess interviewed by Reuters outside the CETA negotiations

So we got up bright and early on Monday morning, to greet    all the Canadian and European trade negotiators as they arrived at their unobtrusive backstreet venue. We were joined by various friends from Canada: Jasmine Thomas, an indigenous woman from the Yinka Dene Alliance in British Columbia; Dr John O’Connor, the community doctor who first blew the whistle on the high levels of rare cancers being found in the community of Fort Chipewyan, downstream of the tar sands – and his wife Charlene; Stuart Trew, trade justice campaigner with the Council of Canadians; as well as a group of climate activists from Brussels and the Netherlands.

The trade negotiators looked like they had never been subject to a protest before. They probably hadn’t. These types of trade deals invariably take place behind closed doors, with no public scrutiny, though corporate lobbying is rife. We were able to hand each negotiator our briefing on CETA and the tar sands, which we hope focused their minds at the start of a long week’s wrangling.

Then we headed to the Canadian Mission to the EU, to join more friends for a ‘Tar Sands Lobbytour’. Co-organised with Corporate Europe Observatory, the tour visited some of the hotspots of tar sands lobbying in Brussels. We stopped at each location and heard from speakers from Canada, the UK and Brussels who shone a light on the behind-the-scenes influence being wielded in favour of this most despicable of industries.

We started at the Canadian Mission to the EU.  Canada has pulled out all the stops in the last 18 months to ensure that the EU does not pass a key piece of climate legislation – the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD).  The FQD would discourage highly carbon-intensive fuels from being used in Europe – a de facto ban on tar sands. Canada is trying to use the free trade negotiations to persuade Europe to put the FQD on hold and has formed a European ‘oilsands task-force’ to work with industry and lobby decision-makers at all levels to promote the tar sands industry. Needless to say, the Canadians were not pleased to see us. The police kept us away from the building, and then tailed us for the rest of the tour!

Undeterred, we continued to our second stop – the UK representation to the EU. They were even less pleased to see us and tried to kick us off ‘their’ pavement. But we stood our ground and said our piece, because whilst most member states support the inclusion of tar sands in the Fuel Quality Directive, the UK is blocking it, merrily toeing the Canadian line that this is ‘unfair discrimination’ against the tar sands, which is blatant stalling because the FQD also puts carbon values on other types of fuel. The UK is also enthusiastically pushing for a comprehensive business-friendly CETA.

We then popped around the corner to BP’s European HQ. BP recently took the decision to enter into its first tar sands extraction project, despite opposition from shareholders and civil society.  It has been highly influential in shaping – and weakening – EU climate policy over many years.

The next leg of our tour found us at the European Commission, and specifically DG Trade which has incestuous links with big business and consistently acts in their interests not those of society or the environment. It recently blocked DG Clima’s attempts to include tar sands in the FQD, citing concerns that it would jeopardise the EU’s chances of signing a successful CETA agreement with Canada.

Our final stop was outside the European Parliament. Whilst many MEPs have expressed their opposition to tar sands fuel entering Europe, the Parliament has a history of being receptive to corporate lobbying. The European Energy Forum is an influential grouping of MEPs that works with Commission staff, oil companies and lobby groups to champion the interests of the energy industry in general, and tar sands in particular. They also organise tours for MEPs to ‘educate’ them about how great different energy projects are around the world. Their next trip? They’re off to Alberta in August!

Our tour ended on a positive note with Jasmine reminding us that although we’d been to the belly of the beast we are up against today, when we work together and resist these powerful forces we are also powerful. She ended on a traditional song, and we made our way off into the sunshine, much better informed and more determined than ever!

Tomorrow we are meeting with MEPs at the European Parliament. Watch this space…

2 Responses to “Shining a light on Europe’s role in the Tar Sands”

  1. Donna says:

    Do not permit the dirty tar sands oil, into Europe. This is the filthiest energy on this earth. The capture storage, is a total scam. The north is forever contaminated.

    Scientists have found acid in the ocean, right up to the shores of British Columbia. They were stunned, they thought the acid was way out into the deep. The acid will eat the shells off the crustaceans. The coral is bleaching white. Scientists say, the Great Barrier Reef, will be dead, within twenty years. Our oceans are dying. They have absorbed all of the carbon monoxide, they can bear. If we don’t get rid of fossil fuels, the planet will get rid of us. If the oceans die, we die.

    Prime Minister Harper has been lying to Europe, trying to pass the dirty tar sands oil as, clean energy. It isn’t. Even refineries across the other side of Canada, are contaminating the underground water. This filthy oil, is extremely toxic. Harper has grandiose plans, to be an energy giant. He will pollute the entire planet, to achieve his evil agenda.

    P.M. Harper, refuses to allow scientists to publish their results. All of their papers, must go through Harper first. Needless to say, their results are altered. So the real truth doesn’t get out to the public.

    Harper is sending a literal criminal to England, as High Commissioner, Ex Premier Gordon Campbell, of British Columbia. He twice lied, to be re-elected for two different elections. It took the BC people forever, but, we finally forced him to resign. He is especially known for, his very dirty tactics. He has been sent to England, especially to force the dirty tar sands on Europe. Be warned, everything will be done, behind the British peoples back.

    The American politicians say, Harper is a petty gasbag. He is arrogant, stubborn and impossible to work with. Both Harper and Campbell, absolutely can’t be trusted.

    Harper has made Canada, just another corrupt country. To we Canadian people, we are now ashamed of Canada, because of P.M. Harper. We are so very embarrassed, Harper would send scum like Campbell, to England. He belongs in prison.

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