Lobby-busting mission targets UK government over tar sands

A delegation of civil society representatives from Canada came to London to lobby UK decision-makers today (22nd March 2012), in an attempt to expose and counter the Canadian government’s multi-million dollar PR offensive to promote its oil exports. The delegation included First Nations Chief Bill Erasmus, Stuart Trew from Council of Canadians, and Hannah McKinnon from CAN Canada. They met with the Liberal Democrats, along with Jess Worth and Suzanne Dhaliwal from the UK Tar Sands Network, urging them to use their position in the UK’s Coalition government to support European legislation which would see Canada’s tar sands labelled as more polluting than conventional oil.

The ‘lobby-busting’ tour, which has already taken in Paris and The Hague, and has now gone to Berlin, has been prompted by the Canadian Government’s recent coordinated lobbying attack against the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive (FQD). Aimed at securing a reckless programme of expansion in the highly-polluting tar sands in Alberta, Canada’s PR push has involved over 110 lobbying meetings in Europe in 2010 alone, and has swayed several European governments, including the UK. In order to counter this effect, the lobby-busting delegation has been meeting policy-makers in European capitals to challenge key misconceptions put forward by Canada, including claims that the Directive discriminates against it, is not based on sound science and is a threat to trade.

After a visit to Canada last year, David Cameron committed to supporting Canada’s efforts to undermine the FQD – which has prompted what appears to be an internal battle on the issue within the Coalition Government. In the recent vote on the FQD, the UK government was set to vote against the legislation, but after concerted public pressure on Liberal Democrat transport minister, Norman Baker, the UK abstained. However, the FQD decision still hangs in the balance, with a final vote due in June. This lobby-busting tour is part of an international civil society effort to tip that balance in favour of stronger climate legislation.

“The Alberta tar sands are the world’s most polluting source of transport fuel, and the one of the most devastating ecological crimes of our times,” said Suzanne Dhaliwal, co-founder of the UK Tar Sands Network. “We are asking that UK politicians stand up to Canada’s bullying tactics and support the Fuel Quality Directive so that tar sands oil stays out of Europe for good.”

Canada has continually downplayed the real impacts of the tar sands on its First Nations communities, the devastation being caused to the region’s pristine boreal forest and the huge climate impacts of the industry’s expansion plans.

“We are very pleased that the European Union is taking an honest hard look at what their future is in relation to fossil fuels. They will be taking a lead on climate change if they pass the Fuel Quality Directive as it is. Europe is making a choice that may not satisfy Canada, but as First Nations we are OK with that. The future of all peoples are at stake because of the way countries like Canada are operating,” said Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus.

The pan-European lobby-busting tour has been organised by Council of Canadians, Indigenous Environmental Network, and Climate Action Network Canada (CAN).

Media Coverage:

CBC News http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2012/03/22/pol-oilsands-fuel-directive-lobby.html

iPolitics http://www.ipolitics.ca/2012/03/22/canadian-oilsands-opponents-take-their-fight-to-european-capitals/

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