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Canadian Civil Society Delegation ends Tar Sands Lobbying-Busting Tour with High Hopes

Harper government’s anti-climate policy lobbying faces hurdles in Europe, finds civil society delegation

(Berlin, Germany/Ottawa) Delegates are wrapping up a four-country European lobbying tour that has presented a different side of the story in Canada on the tar sands. The tour, which started in Paris, headed to The Hague, London and Berlin, directly challenged Canadian and Alberta government and industry lobbying to undermine the European Union’s efforts to reduce transportation pollution through the Fuel Quality Directive.

“We received a very positive reception,” says Hannah McKinnon, Campaigns Director for Climate Action Network Canada who participated in the tour. “The Canadian Government’s lobby efforts here seem to have done little more than convince the Europeans that Canada is prioritizing the interests of polluters rather than doing its fair share to address the global climate crises.”

Despite Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s accusations that the Directive is not based on sound science, meetings this week confirm that European policy and decision makers do not question the science and know that policies like the Fuel Quality Directive are critical in ensuring that Europe can live up to its greenhouse gas reduction commitments.  Canada’s recent decision to walk away from the Kyoto Protocol was consistently raised in these meetings, and the extent of Canadian government lobbying against the FQD was confirmed by most.

“For the first time, people on this side of the water are hearing the other side of the story about the tar sands and they’re hearing it from people who are being directly impacted,” says Bill Erasmus, National Dene Chief and the Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief of the Northwest Territories. “We challenge the federal government to stop undermining climate policy abroad and recognize we’re all in this together. We think the budget coming out on Thursday should divert funds from the anti- climate lobbying and put it towards cleaning up the tar sands and lowering Canada’s overall environmental impact.”

“Canada’s threats to pull out of bilateral free trade talks with the EU, or take the fuel quality directive to the WTO if it mentions the tar sands, aren’t having much effect in Europe from what we can tell,” adds Stuart Trew, Trade Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “The Directive does not discriminate against Canadian oil because it treats all unconventional tar sands derived fuel the same, no matter where it’s pulled out of the ground.”

Throughout the tour, an interest in maintaining a positive relationship with Canada, while recognizing the challenges with a recent change in attitude towards energy and climate, was shared. A number of government officials requested additional information and offered concrete proposals for ongoing engagement in the lead up to a June vote on the Directive.

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The tour was sponsored by the Council of Canadians, Climate Action Network Canada and the Indigenous Environmental Network. Tour delegates also included Steven Guilbeault, Deputy Director of Équiterre and Ben Powless, Mohawk from Six Nations and Indigenous Environmental Network delegate in Paris, Powless also attended The Hague meetings.