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NEWS: CETA talks limit EU action against the tar sands

Canadas ambassador to the European Union Ross Hornby

Canada’s ambassador to the European Union Ross Hornby

The Inter Press Service reports that, “Fears of a trade dispute with Canada have made European Union officials reluctant to categorise tar sands from North America as a more polluting fuel than conventional petrol.”

“One of the trickiest issues to emerge in the discussions (in the development of a fuel quality directive) relates to whether imports of non-conventional sources of oil should be restricted.”

“In a 2009 paper drafted by environment officials tar sands were deemed to be 20 percent more damaging to the climate than the petrol typically used to power Europe’s cars.”

Seventeen Members of the European Parliament wrote to European climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard in April urging her to maintain barriers to the tar sands in the draft EU regulatory standards.

“But this provision was removed from the draft after Ross Hornby, Canada’s ambassador in Brussels, wrote to Karl Falkenberg, head of the European Commission’s environment department, in January. Hornby’s letter… objected to a proposal that fuels derived from tar sands would be treated differently to those using conventional crude oil. (The letter said that) would constitute a ‘barrier’ to trade…”

“A senior Brussels official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the question of how tar sands should be categorised in the EU ‘goes further than the quality of oil, it is also a trade question.’ The official added that ‘you can be sure’ the matter will be discussed in the context of a nominally separate free trade agreement that the EU and Canada have aimed to conclude by the end of next year.”

“Stuart Trew from the Council of Canadians, a social justice organisation, said a moratorium on the extraction of tar sands is necessary. The eagerness of the Ottawa government to exploit the reserves under Alberta is ‘a blight on Canada’s reputation and on the world,’ he told IPS.”

“Trew expressed particular concern about how a draft version of the trade agreement would — if implemented in its current form — allow corporations to take action against measures that they perceive as hostile to trade. A similar provision in the North America Free Trade Agreement has enabled companies to attack health and environmental measures in the U.S. and Mexico, he added, noting that the procedure lets corporations bypass courts and instead set up private panels. ‘Any attempt to cut back on the production of tar sands, to make stronger environmental rules or to limit the amount of water used to make tar sands could result in a challenge,’ he said.”

In May 2010, the 736-member European Parliament passed a resolution expressing “its concern about the impact of the extraction of oil sands on the global environment due to the high level of CO2 emissions during its production process and the threat it poses for local biodiversity and the rights and health of indigenous peoples.”

The European Union has also pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and are demanding that Canada make comparable commitments. Canada’s carbon emissions will actually continue to rise over this period.

This past April, Kriton Arsenis, a Greek Member of the European Parliament with the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, asked EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to link trade cooperation with Canada to its climate strategy and its promotion of the tar sands.

Arsenis is another potential ally for us among the many MEPs we met in Brussels last week. He is also a member of the European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, the Committee on Fisheries, and is active on issues related to biodiversity and climate change.

The IPS article is at http://ipsterraviva.net/UN/currentNew.aspx?new=7917.