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Dirty Oil Diplomacy: New report outlines Canada’s tarred lobbying efforts

Climate Action Network Canada, in partnership with the NRDC, Environmental Defence, Equiterre, Greenpeace and Sierra Club, launched a new report today – Dirty Oil Diplomacy, The Canadian Government’s Global Push to Sell the Tar Sands. I just returned from a breakfast briefing with diplomats here in Ottawa introducing the report which provides hard-hitting evidence of our government’s strategy to promote the tar sands and undermine climate legislation in Europe and the U.S.

Yesterday, in the lead up to the launch of this report, candle light vigils were held outside Canadian missions in more than 20 locations in the U.S. and Canada to voice concern and extend hope that Canada will reverse its international lobbying on behalf of highly destructive and polluting tar sands oil industry.  You can see pictures here. The report, which you can download here begins with providing a brief ‘101’ on tar sands and the context of domestic Canadian policy which includes the federal government’s track record of failed climate change legislation policy, declining support for climate science, oil and gas sector subsidies and attacks on First Nations and environmental groups.

The focus then shifts to providing detailed information, based largely on government documents received using access to information rights, on the nature of Canada’s strategy to influence policy in the U.S., Europe and internationally that stand to impact the push for further unsustainable expansion in the tar sands. It outlines how Canada has had an oil sands advocacy strategy since 2009, which appears to have been developed in consultation with the Government of Alberta and the oil industry, and is run by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in close collaboration with Natural Resources Canada. The strategy includes federal bureaucrats, diplomats and politicians with participation of elected officials from the Government of Alberta, politicians and civil servants as well as industry representatives.

The report indicates that the strategy appears to have been formalized following interventions in the Californian Low Carbon Fuel Standard. It has at least two subsets, the U.S. Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy and the Pan European Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy. The European strategy was launched in 2010. The Canadian High Commission in London is the “team leader” and members include embassies in Norway, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands. The focus is on engagement with industry and shared communications initiatives between the government and oil industry to present a greener picture of the tar sands. As we know, the strategy also includes lobbying to weaken and undermine the EU Fuel Quality Directive (FQD). This strategy featured over 110 lobby meetings between Canadian officials and European decision makers on the topic of the FQD in 2010 alone.

This report, along with other documents such as a this open letter, a letter from the NDP and Green Party of Canada and a number of briefings, will be part of an information kit delivered on a European lobby-busting tour beginning Monday March 19. A delegation from the Council of Canadians, Climate Action Network Canada and the Indigenous Environmental Network will travel to Paris, The Hague, London and Berlin to deliver a clear message of opposition to the federal and Alberta government and industry confuse and lobby campaign against the European Fuel Quality Directive – more information on this soon!

In the meantime, here are a couple of highlights from quotes featured in today’s new report:

the tar sands remain the largest source of greenhouse gas emission growth in Canada and are the single largest reason Canada is failing to meet it’s international climate commitments and failing to be a climate leader. The world needs to transition off of fossil fuels that means coal, unconventional gas, and unconventional oil all need to be addressed.” Dr. Andrew Weaver, IPCC Climatologist, University of Victoria

The Prime Minister is keen to keep control of the message, I think to ensure that the government won’t be embarrassed by scientific findings of its scientists that run counter to sound environmental stewardship. I suspect the federal government would prefer that its scientists don’t discuss research that points out just how serious the climate change challenge is.” Professor Thomas Pedersen, University of Victoria, February 2012 (more on this in today’s news

Canada is effectively negotiating in bad faith, undermining the whole agreement. At least everyone else is trying to reach their Kyoto targets. Canada is doing absolutely nothing,” Saleemul Huq, lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), December 2009

We would expect hard lobbying from the oil companies, there are a lot of European companies involved in the production of oil sands. And we didn’t. The part that was more active was the Canadian government,” Member of European Parliament Kriton Arsenis on Canadian Government lobbying against the EU Fuel Quality Directive, November 23, 2011.