"Stop sabotaging climate action!" Tar Sands protest at the Canadian High Commission marks Minister’s visit

January 31, 2011
Media Release

LONDON – 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.

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" [2]. The FQD is currently on course to set a precedent in recognising, and penalising, Tar Sands oil as dirty oil.

Liepert's trip is clearly timed to influence vital decisions around CETA and the FQD that are being taken in Europe over the next few weeks. After two days in London, where he will meet, among others, the Canadian High Commissioner, the UK Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs, and many oil and gas industry representatives, he will travel to Brussels to lobby members of European Parliament, the chair of the Environment Committee and the Commissioner for Energy for the EU Parliament [3].

Today's protest is just the latest expression of opposition to the Tar Sands in the UK.  In the past year, British shareholders, NGOs, politicians and campaigners have expressed increasing concern over the involvement of UK banks and oil companies in the highly polluting extraction of “dirty oil” from the Tar Sands [4]. Emitting three to five times as much CO2 as conventional oil drilling, the Tar Sands industry is destroying the livelihoods and health of local Indigenous communities and decimating ancient forests and wildlife across an area of Alberta larger than England [5].

Suzanne Dhaliwal from the UK Tar Sands Network said: "Ron Liepert has come to London on a mission to scupper the EU's attempts to ban Tar Sands oil imports into Europe. This blatant meddling on behalf of Big Oil is unacceptable. Europe must put effective climate action ahead of corporate profits, by standing firm on the Fuel Quality Directive and putting the CETA negotiations on hold."

Andrea Harden, Energy Campaigner for the Council of Canadians added: "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?”

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Notes for editors

[1] The CETA negotiations are about halfway through and due to be completed towards the end of 2011. The latest round of talks took place in Brussels earlier this month, and were targeted by Tar Sands protests: http://www.canadians.org/media/trade/2011/17-Jan-11.html.  For a full explanation of the problems with CETA, please see “Keep Europe out of the Tar Sands!”, a briefing by Council of Canadians, Indigenous Environmental Network and UK Tar Sands Network, available at /sites/default/files/Trade/briefing-CETA-tarsands.pdf.

[2] The EU has been negotiating a 'Fuel Quality Directive' (FQD), aimed at encouraging the use of low carbon energy products and discouraging the use of high-emission crude oil. In its original form the FQD would have prevented fuels with a high carbon content from being used in Europe – an effective ban on Tar Sands . But the initial draft has been significantly weakened following Canadian lobbying, and all reference to Tar Sands has been removed until after the CETA negotiations. See http://www.co-operative.coop/upload/ToxicFuels/docs/MEP_FQD_briefing_paper.pdf for more details.

[3] Ron Liepert's full itinerary can be seen at http://www.alberta.ca/acn/201101/29818C3959971-9862-982B-67D0E6D0B5B47B40.html

[4] The last 18 months have seen a growing number of organisations taking action against British banks and companies with links to the Tar Sands. Both BP and Shell have faced shareholder resolutions over their Tar Sands investments, as well as protests at their offices and petrol stations. The Royal Bank of Scotland has also come under fire for being the 7th largest global investor in the industry, using British taxpayers’ money, and were targeted by the Camp for Climate Action, who camped for a week in the grounds of their global headquarters in Edinburgh last summer. For more information see:

Indigenous Environmental Network: http://www.ienearth.org/tarsands.html
UK Tar Sands Network: http://www.no-tar-sands.org/
FairPensions: http://www.fairpensions.org.uk/tarsands/news
Platform: http://blog.platformlondon.org/category/tags/tar-sands
Camp for Climate Action: http://www.climatecamp.org.uk

[5] For more information on the destructive nature of the Tar Sands, please see:

Indigenous Environmental Network: http://www.ienearth.org/tarsands.html
Dirty Oil Sands: http://dirtyoilsands.org/
UK Tar Sands Network: http://www.no-tar-sands.org/