A media release from the UK Tar Sands Network reports that, “This morning a group of campaigners protested outside the Canadian High Commission in London, to mark the visit of Ron Liepert, Alberta’s Energy Minister. The minister is here to lobby on behalf of the Province of Alberta’s Tar Sands industry, and encourage Europe to get more involved in what has been dubbed the world’s most destructive project. The protesters held banners saying ‘Stop the Tar Sands Trade Talks’ and ‘Canadian Tar Sands: Global Climate Crime’ outside the High Commission in Grosvenor Square, and handed out flyers. There was heavy security, and they were not allowed to meet the Minster himself, nor even hand in a letter for him, explaining their concerns.”
They highlight that, “Unbeknownst to most citizens, the EU and Canada are in the midst of negotiating an ambitious free trade deal (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA). The Albertan and Canadian governments are trying to use these talks to undermine EU climate policy. Specifically, they are pressuring the EU to water down a key piece of climate legislation (the Fuel Quality Directive, or FQD), calling it an ‘unfair trade barrier’.”
The media release also states, “Andrea Harden, Energy Campaigner for the Council of Canadians says: ‘No doubt Liepert will be extolling the virtues of the Tar Sands as so-called ‘ethical oil’. They are nothing of the kind. The watershed is showing signs of stress, massive toxic tailings ponds are leaking, people downstream are getting sick and the Tar Sands are Canada’s largest source of industrial carbon emissions. What’s ethical about that?'”
A campaign blog about Liepert’s visit can be read at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6114. Read the media release at http://canadians.org/media/trade/2011/31-Jan-11.html.
Update: The Guardian UK is now reporting that, “Trade talks between Europe and Canada could leave the door open to companies suing states for losses incurred by efforts to fight climate change, campaigners claimed today. The warning, backed by an MEP (Catherine Bearder) and a law expert, came as 10 protesters unsuccessfully attempted to talk to the Canadian energy minister, Ron Liepert, this morning during a visit to London for a meeting with Lord Howell, the UK minister for the Commonwealth. Liepert is visiting the UK and Belgium to promote tar sands in the Canadian province of Alberta as a ‘leading source of secure energy’. The protesters tried unsuccessfully to gain access to the Canadian high commission on Grosvenor Square.”
“Concern is focused on the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), a trade deal which Canada and the EU have been negotiating for the last two years and which they hope to finally sign in 2012. Campaigners say CETA could affect governments’ rights to regulate themselves and could also open the door for tar sands oil to be imported into Europe. …’The proposed trade agreement between Canada and the EU will have a substantial impact on efforts to address the local, regional and global impacts of oil sands developments,’ was the conclusion drawn by lawyer Steven Shrybman, who studied the draft agreement on behalf of tar sands campaigners in Canada. ‘If CETA fails to significantly improve on the norms for such trade agreements, it will only add to the serious impediments that now exist under NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] and WTO [World Trade Organisation] agreements to establishing effective measures to combat climate change.’”
“A spokeswoman for the UK Tar Sands Network, which organised today’s protest, said: ‘Liepert is using the fact that the EU and Canada are currently negotiating to argue that any attempts to discriminate against tar sands oil due to its high carbon intensity is an unfair trade barrier. Tar sands oil is significantly more carbon-intensive than conventional fuels. Boosting the tar sands industry will directly contribute to increasing climate change and Europe has every right to ban imports of tar sands on these grounds.’”
“Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder said: ‘There is a real concern that, if the final agreement includes an investor-to-state dispute mechanism, it could be used by corporations to prevent government actions to limit the tar sands and possibly even to stop government policy limiting the enormous use of water by the corporations in the tar sands.’”
The Guardian UK article is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jan/31/alberta-tar-sands-trade-agreement.