Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’…

Dear Tar Sands Troopers,

Since our last newsletter there has been an array of good, bad and confusing news. We’re waiting with bated breath the outcome of Keystone XL Pipeline and the EU Fuel Quality Directive – we will keep you updated as soon as news arrives.

It’s now coming to the end of a mammoth year of tar sands activism. Thanks to everyone who has helped fight the fight, be it by telling your neighbours about tar sands, withdrawing your funds from RBS, or putting your body in the way of the dominating powers. If you want a reminder of what we’ve been up to this year, have a look on our blog. Over the next few week we’ll still be on twitter and facebook so keep an eye out.

One more thing: tackling the tar monster costs money. With more help from our supporters we will be able to do bigger and better things: we are already planning our AGM attack strategy. We have just set up a new webpage with details of how to donate. The best Christmas present would be if people would set up regular donations, although one-off donations are much appreciated too. We don’t have a lot of dosh, and are experts at making the smallest amounts go a long way. If you’d rather offer your time, that would be equally amazing – just let us know.

The Good:
1. Shell faces legal challenge from Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
2. Tar Sands and bananas don’t mix

The Bad:
3. Canada pulls out of Kyoto
4. BP confirms sponsorship of cultural institutions

The Confusing:
5. Keystone victory muddied
6. FQD vote delayed – more time to continue the battle

We hope you all have a well-deserved break and are ready for a lot more tar-sands-ass-kicking next year!
Emily and Sue

1. Shell faces legal challenge from Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN)
On 30th November we served papers to Shell UK executives in solidarity with ACFN. The community is suing Shell for its failure to meet contractual agreements affecting ACFN traditional territory and Canada’s pristine Athabasca River. This action comes at significant risk to the community given that many are  employed by Shell and alternative means of employment are rare. The AFCN campaign not only seeks compensation  for the community, but to halt new Shell developments, undermining Shell’s tar sands portfolio and overall reputation. The assertion of Aboriginal treaty rights is a key opportunity to stop future tar sands developments, and from the UK we are providing as much support as we can for the community.

Keep up to date with the campaign on the community’s website and our new Shell campaign page.

2. Tar Sands and bananas don’t mix
Chiquita, a massive US banana company, has decided to stop using tar sands oil. We know this is a step in the right direction as it has put the wind up astroturf oil lobby front group who have started a new website calling for a boycott of the banana giant… A quick reminder, if you’d forgotten, TAR SANDS ARE NOT ETHICAL! Well done to Forest Ethics for their work on this case.

3. Canada pulls out of Kyoto
If the Durban climate talks weren’t depressing enough, Canada finished it off nicely with a smug withdrawal from any legally binding climate commitments under the next period of Kyoto. But there was some light-hearted relief at Durban when our friends from IEN gave delegates to the U.N. climate talks mock gift bags containing samples of fake tar sands along with tourism brochures for Canada and Canadian flags. And it does seem that the world is starting to wake up to Canada’s cover-up of the damage caused by tar sands.

4. BP confirms sponsorship of cultural institutions
More bad news came this week when BP confirmed another £10 million of funding for Britain’s leading arts institutions – with Tate Director Nicholas Serota claiming he’d “been thinking very hard” and “it was the right thing to continue with BP”.

However a hidden victory lies in just how contentious an issue oil sponsorship has now become, with the debate growing out of the fringes into the mainstream. BP’s sponsorship of the Olympics will become the major focus in coming months, with a coalition of groups challenging the hypocrisy of the climate tycoon’s fortuitous label as ‘Sustainability Partner’. We have begun dismantling their greenwash here and here. Art Not Oil is also coordinating a call-out for artistic responses to BP’s Olympic sponsorship.

5. Keystone victory muddied
In what was widely hailed as the environmental victory of the year, Obama decided to postpone the decision to build the Keystone XL pipeline until early 2013. But politics got in the way, with Obama deciding to sacrifice the Keystone delay to protect a tax-cut for low-to-middle-class Americans.

As the latest update from explains:

“The Senate, with the White House’s consent, passed a payroll tax cut plan with a rider attached that would have forced a speedy review of Keystone. That sounds bad — except that administration spokesmen said quite bluntly that if they were forced to do a quick review they’d deny the permit.
That sounds good — except that now the Tea Party caucus in the House has decided they don’t want the payroll tax cut, and they do want the Senate to come back to DC for more talks, and…you get the drift. At least for the moment, Keystone is flotsam on the unchartable tides of DC politics.”

For now, there’s not a lot we can be doing, except wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’…

6. FQD vote delayed – more time to continue the battle
The Fuel Quality Directive – legislation that would strongly discourage tar sands from entering the UK – was meant to be voted on by member states on 5th December. For undisclosed reasons the vote was instead postponed until some time in February, giving both sides time to escalate their campaigns. The Canadian lobbying has continued with another Alberta minister heading here to promote tar sands, which we weren’t too happy about. On the other side, our friends at the Council of Canadians has been busy finding that despite their government’s whining, Canadians actually support the FQD!

In the UK, Norman Baker is still claiming to be an ‘environmentalist’ but refusing to support the current form of the FQD. Fellow Lib Dems Chris Davies MEP and Catherine Bearder MEP have been vocal in their criticism of Baker’s position. Anything you can do to keep the pressure on Baker is much appreciated, and of course we promise to keep you updated!

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