Canadian Manufacturing

Canadian lobby group visits E.U. to support oilsands proposal

Attempts to counteract Canadian government and oil industry lobbying of E.U. leaders.



A group of Canadians has embarked on a week-long tour of Europe to try to convince European leaders to approve a proposal that would assign a larger carbon footprint to oilsands crude compared to average crude oil.

The European Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) sets a mandatory target for fuel producers and suppliers to reduce the carbon emitted by fuels by six per cent from 2010 levels by the year 2020. The proposal that would affect the Alberta oilsands is a slight variation on FQD, and in February, a vote by European Union leaders on the issue resulted in a stalemate. The Council of Europe now has the final say and is expected to make a decision in June.

During the tour, the group, led by a First Nations chief and members of Canadian civil society organizations, will present information about the human rights implications of tar sands development and about the failure of the federal government to regulate this source of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution.

This is an attempt to counteract the influence of lobbyists from the Canadian government and oil industry who want the European proposal scrapped.

“We have always looked up to Europe for leadership on critical issues like aboriginal rights and climate change,” Hannah McKinnon, campaigns director with Climate Action Network Canada, and member of the group, said in a statement. “Where Canada used to be an ally in the fight against climate change, our current government has turned us into a pariah, and we are here to deliver a different perspective to European decision-makers.”

As well as McKinnon, the delegation includes: national Dene chief and the assembly of first nationals and regional chief of the northwest territories, Bill Erasmus; Stuart Trew, trade campaigner with the Council of Canadians; the Indigenous Environment Network’s Ben Powless; and Steven Guilbeault, co-founder and deputy executive director of Équiterre.

The group started its tour today in Paris and will make stops at The Hague, in London and in Berlin. Leaders will be presented with a package of information that includes a document challenging Canadian lobbyist misconceptions, an open letter opposing these lobbyist efforts and supporting the FQD, and a letter of support from the federal New Democratic Party and the Green Party of Canada.

Last week during the International Energy Forum (IEF) in Kuwait, Jon Oliver, Canada’s minister of natural resources, met individually with European leaders and provided them each with a letter outlining Canada’s position on the FQD. He also spoke out against the FQD to a general assembly of world leaders and executives from the oil industry.

“Any policies that discriminate against oil sands will impede the free flow of global oil supplies and are detrimental to overall energy security,” he said. “For example, implementation of the draft European Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) could have significant and unintended consequences for the world oil supply to the extent that it introduces discriminatory and non-science-based impediments to global energy markets.”

Canada has threatened to take the E.U. to the World Trade organization if it singled out that type of oil as worse for the environment than others. Critics of the proposal say it would essentially amount to a fuel ban on crude from the Alberta oilsands.

“We hope European leaders will ignore Canada’s hollow threat to take the Fuel Quality Directive to the WTO,” the Council of Canadian’s Trew, said. “The policy does not discriminate against Canadian oil but treats al unconventional tar sands-derived fuel the same, no matter where it’s pulled out of the ground. If by some fluke the WTO ruled against E.U. climate policy, it looks worse on Canada and the global trade regime than it does on Europe, which should be [praised for trying to do something to reduce carbon emissions.”

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