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

400+ investors with more than $24 trillion support Paris climate agreement

November 28th 2015

Blog Post: Stronger political leadership and more ambitious policies are needed in order for us to scale up our investments. We believe that well designed and implemented policies would encourage us to invest significantly more in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable land use and climate resilient development, thereby benefitting our clients and beneficiaries, and society as a whole.

‘It’s a new day’: Why environmentalists need to change their strategy under Trudeau government


Emma Gilchrist | DeSmog Canada - November 26th 2015

Press Clipping: Now that Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have taken the helm, advocates have high hopes for a course correction on the environment and energy files. But after nearly a decade of working under hostile conditions, environmentalists need to make a course correction of their own if they want to effectively influence public policy, experts say. “If I was running a large ENGO and my file was climate, it’s a new day,” said Allan Northcott, vice-president of Max Bell Foundation.

Burnaby to appeal court ruling over pipeline

Jeremy Deutsch, Jennifer Moreau | Burnaby NOW - November 25th 2015

Press Clipping: Burnaby’s fight against Kinder Morgan and the Trans Mountain Pipeline is destined to go all the way to Canada’s top court. That’s the way Mayor Derek Corrigan sees it, after the city lost the first round of a court battle against the energy company and the National Energy Board. “From the very beginning, I said we’re going to have to move on to a higher court to get someone to relook at this whole issue,” he told the NOW.

Another historic day in the battle to stop the tar sands


Mike Hudema | Greenpeace Canada - November 25th 2015

Blog Post: Today people slowed the beast again but this time we did it at the source. After a string of pipeline victories and over a decade of campaigning on at least three different continents, the Alberta government has finally put a limit to the tar sands. Today they announced they will cap its expansion and limit the tar sands monster to 100 megatons a year (equivalent to what projects already operating and those currently under construction would produce).

Our big moment to show Canadians 100% clean energy is 100% possible


November 25th 2015

Blog Post: Thousands of people have signed up to march in Ottawa on November 29 to send our government leaders to the UN Paris Climate Conference with a clear message: Canadians want bold action on climate change. One hundred per cent clean energy is not only necessary to solve the climate crisis -- it is 100 per cent possible. Support this flagship event by attending a Global Climate march near you.

Lawyers call on the Prime Minister to act on Canada’s obligation to fight climate change

Karine Péloffy | Quebec Environmental Law Centre - November 25th 2015

Blog Post: In an open letter published in Le Devoir, the Quebec Environmental Law Centre (CQDE) invites the Prime Minister to fulfill his legal obligations in regards to the struggle against climate change. Canada has never adopted – much less implemented – binding reduction targets that would sufficiently respond to the international scientific consensus on climate change. Canada has let greenhouse gas emissions (GGE) rise to 18% since the beginning of concerted international action on this cause, to the dismay of many provinces.