Back in 2009, the EU proposed legislation that would cut imports of dirty tar sands from Canada, as part of its Fuel Quality Directive, which was introduced to encourage cleaner, greener fuels.
Canada was worried that the tar sands would be automatically blocked from the EU due to the fact it is much more carbon intensive.
It immediately put pressure on the EU to change its stance and somehow change the legislation to incorporate the tar sands.
There has been intense lobbying by the Canadians, with politician after politician arguing that tar sands should not be discriminated against because it is so dirty.
Last May, it was discussed during a meeting between EU President Jose Manuel Barroso and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Also last May Alberta’s Environment Minister Rob Renner, and a cheerleader for tar sands, was dispatched on a lobbying tour to London, Brussels and Strasbourg, to meet with financiers, European Commission officials and Members of the European Parliament.
The Canadian Government presented Renner’s concerns as environmental: “Renner to advance clean energy dialogue in Europe,” its press release announced. “Renner will meet with key European groups May 15-21 to discuss Alberta’s environmental management practices and how the province is transitioning to a cleaner energy future … It supports the advancement of Alberta’s clean energy story.”
But actually it was a trip to push the tar sands.
Other Canadian politicians have been lobbying too. The Trade Minister Peter Van Loan argues that the “Oil sands-derived fuel should be treated on a similar basis as other crude oil sources and decisions must be based on sound scientific evidence.”
But now leaked documents show that the Canadians are flexing their diplomatic muscles, and are essentially “blackmailing” the EU. The country has threatened to scrap a trade deal with the EU if Europe persists with plans to block tar sands fuel.
The latest controversy surrounds moves under the Fuel Quality Directive to reduce the carbon footprint of fuels by 6 percent over the next decade.
The EU is now fine-tuning the “default values”" to help suppliers identify the most carbon-intensive imports.
The Commission had initially proposed that tar sands be given a greenhouse gas value of 107 grams per megajoule of fuel, making it clear to buyers that it had far greater impact than average crude oil at 87.1 grams. Further research by the EU published this month, supported this fact.
“Canada has been lobbying the Commission and member states intensively to avoid a separate default value for fuel derived from tar sands,” said a briefing note prepared by EU officials for climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard, and which has been acquired under Freedom of Information laws.
“It has raised the issue in the context of EU-Canada negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement”.
But the Reuters news agency is now reporting that Canada is now threatening to scrap the whole trade deal, which is expected to be agreed later this year.
Canada of course denies the charge, but then they would wouldn’t they. “Canada and the European Union are working to resolve the issue outside of the negotiations towards a free trade deal,” International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan said in a statement to Reuters.