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NEWS: Harper government threatens to take EU tar sands directive to WTO

The Globe and Mail reports, “Canada threatened on Wednesday to take the European Union to the World Trade Organization over its plans to label Canadian oil sands as dirty, but promised not to delay a bilateral trade pact (the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). …Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, on a week-long lobbying trip to Europe, accused the EU of breaking international trade rules and discriminating against Canadian exports.”

“The European Commission has proposed labelling oil from tar sands as ‘highly polluting’ to help implement an EU goal to cut the carbon intensity of its transport fuels by 6 per cent by 2020. The Commission denies that it is singling out Canadian oil as its proposal also defines other unconventional sources of oil as carbon-intensive. …A report on Wednesday indicated the European Commission’s tar sands proposal would shift investment towards lower-carbon oil sources and could save up to 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – equivalent to removing 7 million cars from Europe’s roads.”

This is not the first time the Harper government has made this threat. On September 20, 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported Canada’s chief CETA negotiator Steve Verheul saying, “If the EU proceeds with an approach that’s going to discriminate against oil sands, we would look to protect our interests, and that includes through international institutions like the WTO.” The threat was repeated on December 8, 2011. And now again in May 2013.

For more on how Harper has been trying to kill European climate legislation, see http://canadians.org/blog/?p=11392.

Today’s news report adds, “The WTO has the power to order the EU to change its rules if they are found to be unfair, but the process is lengthy.”

The Council of Canadians has been working to counter the Harper government’s efforts against the European Fuel Quality Directive (EFQD) since July 2010.

Some of our work has included:
joining with allies to lobby European embassies in Ottawa encouraging them to support the fuel quality directive
asking Canadians to send a message to Members of the European Parliament to express support for the fuel quality directive
supporting ads about the tar sands in newspapers in the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands (key countries that need to be swayed on this issue)
writing to all MEPs asking them to ignore the Harper government’s lobbying against the fuel quality directive
commissioning a legal opinion by Steven Shrybman that says, “CETA negotiations (could be used) as a tool for constraining the ability of the EU to pass regulations or other domestic measures that would differentiate between products based on their carbon content”
sending a letter to Harper government officials saying that Canada should stop lobbying the European Parliament and European Commission to weaken the fuel quality directive
countering Harper’s lobbying campaign in Europe.