Tar Sands Solutions Network

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Unchecked expansion of the Canadian tar sands has become a contentious issue all over the world, especially in Europe where climate change policy and action are taken very seriously.

The European Union has committed to reducing the greenhouse gas intensity of fuels used in vehicles by six per cent by 2020, and have recommended that tar sands oil be categorized as 23 per cent dirtier than traditional forms of crude. In response, Big Oil and the Canadian government have mounted an unprecedented lobbying campaign to undermine Europe's clean fuel policies, which has delayed the implementation of the EU's Fuel Quality Directive and interfered in progress toward meeting these emissions-reduction goals.

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- European Commission aims to categorize tar sands oil as 23% more carbon intensive
Key Problems:
- Canada fiercely opposes the categorization of oil sands as dirty oil
- Canada is aggressively lobbying to undermine EU climate action
- Implementing regulations delayed
Current Status:
- Implementation of the Fuel Quality Directive has been delayed
- First shipment of dirty tar sands crude arrived in Spain in late May 

In March 2011, the European Commission committed itself to a 70 per cent reduction (from 2008 levels) in carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Part of that commitment is to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of fuels used in vehicles by six per cent by 2020. This requires reducing emissions from the extraction, production, processing and distribution of the fuels themselves. The EU’s Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) obliges suppliers to reduce the lifecycle greenhouse gas intensity of transportation fuel six per cent by 2020 (compared with 2010).

In October 2011, the European Commission proposed detailed rules for implementing the fuel quality law, which included default values for fuels based on their greenhouse gas emissions. Not surprisingly, tar sands-derived fuels are dirtier than most others: with 107 grams of carbon per megajoule, it produced significantly more GHGs than average conventional crude oil (87.5 grams). A recent study by Transport Environment calculates the tar sands designation in the FQD is equivilant to removing emissions of 7 million cars from Europe's roads.

The Canadian and Alberta governments, in collusion with the global oil industry, tout their own funded studies with wildly different numbers, and have been aggressively lobbying the European Union to give tar sands oil a free pass. In January 2010, they launched the Pan-European Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy to inaccurately portray tar sands development as clean, responsible and sustainable.

It's important to understand that tar sands fuel is not being singled out, as Canadian politicians claim. The FQD also provides high-carbon values for fuels like oil shale and coal-to-liquid (which are in fact more greenhouse gas-intensive than tar sands ).

Canada's interference in European climate change policy, as well as its withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, has angered many European politicians and ruined Canada's reputation as an environmentally friendly nation committed to sustainable development. As a result, the world-famous Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, Germany’s largest and most prestigious research institute, pulled out of a Canadian government-funded research project into sustainable solutions to tar sands pollution, citing fears for its environmental reputation.

Various environmental groups, including the UK Tar Sands Network, Friends of the Earth Europe, Transport Environment, WWF Gernany and Greenpeace Germany, as well as a number of Canadian organizations, have teamed up to thwart Canada's efforts to undermine the EU's new climate policy.

Updates & Resources

First Nations inspired by B.C. in battle against Energy East

Mychaylo Prystupa | National Observer - October 4th 2015

Press Clipping: Indigenous leaders from across Canada are forming a new national political alliance to support opposition to TransCanada's Energy East pipeline. The coalition of chiefs hopes to share B.C.'s lessons for thwarting oil sands pipelines with bands from the Prairies and Eastern Canada. Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba First Nations chiefs voted unanimously at a Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs conference on Wednesday in Vancouver to develop strategies to work together to oppose Energy East, which they see as an unacceptable risk to their lands and waterways. A first-of-its kind “Indigenous Treaty” is also in the works to tackle oil sands expansion in general.

Leap Manifesto sets sights on a Green Canada by 2050


Maude Barlow and Andrea Harden-Donahue | Council of Canadians - October 4th 2015

Blog Post: Pope Francis' compelling appeal for bold leadership to act on climate change could not be further from the current Canadian political landscape. Federal leadership on climate change has been absent so long it has become normalized. Enter stage left: the Leap Manifesto. The unprecedented visionary appeal not only outlines 15 demands for real change, but provides tangible regulations and policies to get us there.

Energy East a no go, Laval tells CMM commissioners


Martin C. Barry | Lavalnews.ca - October 3rd 2015

Press Clipping: In keeping with a fundamental guideline adopted by the City of Laval last year to base all future development on a model grounded in environmental sustainability, Mayor Marc Demers told a panel of environmental commissioners for the Montreal region earlier this week that the city will not put up with the Energy East pipeline passing through Laval’s territory. Addressing a hearing last Wednesday in Laval, Demers led off a reading of the city’s memorandum to the commissioners by stating that the principal reason for Laval’s opposition “resides in the fact that the City of Laval wishes to preserve the security of its citizens and the protection of the environment on its territory.”

New study compares federal party positions on climate, tar sands and clean energy


October 2nd 2015

Blog Post: Today two of Canada’s largest environmental groups released a summary of the five major federal parties’ positions on environmental issues, including climate change and the upcoming Paris climate summit, tar sands and the Energy East pipeline as well as renewable energy, public transit and the electrification of transportation. The study is based on responses to a series of questions that the environmental groups sent to the Conservative Party of Canada, the Green Party of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party, and (in the French version) the Bloc Québécois. All parties responded to the questionnaire except for the Conservative Party.

Next PM needs to be ready for a postpetroleum world

Gary Mason | The Globe and Mail - October 2nd 2015

Press Clipping: The next prime minister needs to start preparing for a postpetroleum world. Oil does not have to be what defines Canada’s economy; in fact, oil and gas represent only about 10 per cent of it (but 25 per cent of our exports). Given the attention climate change is receiving these days, and given oil’s ambiguous future, it’s time Canada’s political leadership began to focus on transitioning from an economic model that increasingly looks fraught to one that reflects new global realities and priorities.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney calls for transition to low-carbon economy

Mark Carney | Bank of England - October 2nd 2015

Blog Post: Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of Canada and current governor of the Bank of England, gave a powerful speech at Lloyd’s of London that called on the global financial community to break through the climate crisis. "With better information as a foundation," he said, "we can build a virtuous circle of better understanding of tomorrow’s risks, better pricing for investors, better decisions by policymakers, and a smoother transition to a lower-carbon economy.” Carney’s full address is well worth your perusal.

Majority of Albertans support tougher climate-change policies: poll


Justin Giovannetti | The Globe and Mail - October 1st 2015

Press Clipping: The majority of Albertans support tougher climate-change policies, even if those policies increase costs for struggling oil companies, and half back an economy-wide carbon tax. Those are two findings in a new poll from EKOS that surveyed Albertans about early environmental moves made by the province’s governing New Democrats. “Two-thirds of Albertans want action,” said Simon Dyer, Pembina’s Alberta director. “Albertans are more nuanced than they’re given credit for and they’re having substantive, serious discussions about the pace and scale of oil-sands development.”

China announces world’s largest cap and trade program

Bobby Magill | Climate Central - September 30th 2015

Press Clipping: Chinese President Xi Jinping announced Friday that China will develop a carbon trading system as a way to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. The announcement, made jointly with U.S. President Barack Obama, comes as both countries prepare to strike a global carbon emissions agreement at the Paris climate negotiations in December. The U.S. and China are the top greenhouse gas emitting nations in the world.