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NEWS: Will the EFQD dispute derail CETA?

We hope so.

Yesterday, we noted Reuters had reported that, “The European Commission has approved including tar sands in the European Union’s fuel quality directive, an EU source told Reuters on Tuesday.”

The Financial Times adds, “The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, decided to target tar sands on Tuesday after more than a year of review, which saw intense lobbying from Ottawa and the oil industry. It will classify oil derived from tar sands as being nearly a quarter more polluting than conventional crude (with tar sands at 107 grams of greenhouse gas emissions per each megajoule, compared to 87.5 for conventional crude) in new legislation that requires suppliers to reduce transport fuels’ carbon emissions. In order to import such oil, suppliers will also have to invest in biofuels and other green products to offset the pollution – which could be cost prohibitive. Although tar sands oil is almost non-existent in Europe, the new restrictions could scupper plans for future exports from Canada and Venezuela. They could also influence other markets, including the US, as they debate the merits of an abundant new source of energy that critics contend is highly polluting.”

Today, Postmedia News reports, “Canada will fight back if the European Union singles out Canadian oilsands as a dirtier form of energy in new fuel quality standards, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver warned Tuesday. He said the action proposed by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, could trigger a challenge before the World Trade Organization if it is endorsed by EU member states and becomes law.”

The Financial Times article also notes, “(This) triumph could damage relations with Canada, the world’s largest producer of tar sands oil. It has already cast a pall over negotiations for an EU-Canada free trade agreement that the two sides were hoping to finalise this year.” This past February, Reuters had reported that, “Canada has threatened to scrap a trade deal with the European Union if the EU persists with plans that would block imports of Canada’s highly polluting tar sands, according to EU documents and sources.”

In a media release issued yesterday, Council of Canadians energy campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue stated, “It appears that the heavy handed lobbying on the part of our government has backfired. This decision affirms that Europe is headed in the right direction, unlike the Harper government.” Trade campaigner Stuart Trew added, “The Harper government has already made veiled trade-based threats in response to transportation policy that rightfully recognizes the high carbon content of tar sands crude and we know the Canada-European trade negotiations have been a venue for lobbying. The EU Commission should listen to its parliament and its own sustainability assessment to reject an investor-state process in CETA which could allow corporate challenges to totally legitimate and badly needed climate or public health protection measures.”

The European Commission decision now has to be adopted by a committee of Member States in the next few months. After it is approved, the European Parliament then has three months to approve or reject the whole proposal without amendments.