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Strange behaviour from traditional Canadian ally says EU MEP

I spent yesterday accompanying EU MEP Kriton Aresenis, Nuša Urbancic of Brussels-based Transport and Environment and Canadian civil society organizations on a whirl wind Parliament Hill tour.  After months of intense Harper government lobbying against the EU Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), it was time to have a European voice in Canada to explain the policy.

As I mentioned in this blog, we had a number of meetings lined up, including with the leaders of the NDP and Green party as well as relevant Liberal and NDP critics.

Mr. Aresenis always began the discussion by sharing that his first impression of Canadians (on his first trip to Canada) affirmed what his and many other Europeans impressions are of Canadians. That we are a friendly and approachable people that share common values with Europe. He explained how Canada has been seen as an ally of Europe, on human rights, peacekeeping, on the environment, including in the signing of the Kyoto Protocol and the Montreal Protocol.

Given this history, he said, it is strange now to have Canada be the only country to directly lobby the EU Parliament against the EU FQD.

Mr. Aresenis came to Canada to share this message, but to also share information about the EU FQD.

The EU FQD is a policy aimed at reducing emissions in the EU transportation sector, one of the only sectors in the EU that is seeing emissions continue to rise. The policy has been in effect for a number of years. The European Commission has now brought a proposal forward that aims to reduce emissions from transport fuels from fossil fuels (there is already existing policy for biofuels).

In essence, fuel suppliers are given a target to reduce their emissions by. Values are placed on different fuel sources, based on scientific studies of their greenhouse gas intensity (how much emissions they produce, from well to wheels). This allows fuel suppliers to make the right choices in supplying the EU market and meet their emission reduction target.

Mr. Aresenis addressed common misconceptions of the EU FQD.

For example, the policy does not unduly target Canada. It is targets bitumen, a source of fuel that is scientifically proven to be more greenhouse gas intense to produce. And it is not the only source of fuel that is is given a value under the policy. Other unconventional sources that have values under the policy include are shale oil and coal to liquid.

They also pointed out that any tar sands producers that can prove that their operations produce less emissions then the default value given to bitumen actually have the opportunity to submit this data and receive their own value.

The tour continues today in Toronto and Montreal on Friday.  The reception has been warm, with the exception of Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver who attacked the tour in question period yesterday.

The CBC, Globe and Mail, Post Media and Le Devoir all covered the story featuring quotes from Mr. Aresenis.

The Council of Canadians remains committed to exposing and challenging the Harper government’s lobbying against the EU FQD.  If our government refuses to take action to address climate change in Canada, we should at least stay out of the way of other countries that are.

We will continue to challenge the Harper government over this lobbying and convey to a European audience that the Harper government’s action do not speak for many Canadians. This includes having an op-ed published in the European Voice today, a newspaper widely read by EU Members of Parliament. The op-ed, co-authored by Maude Barlow and I, challenges key tar sands misconceptions recently published in the paper by a representative of Fraser Institute.

We also have plans underway to creatively deliver Canadians’ messages to Europeans in support of the EU FQD. If you haven’t submitted a picture yet to our photo action, take a couple of minutes to have your voice heard on this issue! PHOTO ACTION ALERT