I am very disappointed by the support being given by the UK government to Canada, in its bid to alter the European Fuels Directive in Canada’s favour, and I am bemused by the content of Norman Baker’s letter to the Guardian. I’ve campaigned for Mr Baker, and hold him in high esteem, but I’m baffled by the position he is taking on this issue.
As Damian Carrington points out quite correctly, Norman Baker’s reference to “the narrow approach” of the pressure groups, simply doesn’t make sense, since Canada isn’t mentioned in the wording of the directive.
At one level, the issue may seem to be a small one. The market for Canada’s tarsands oil is primarily in the USA, with a potential secondary market in China. (battles are going on at the moment over pipelines from Alberta to the USA, and across the Rockies to the coast of British Columbia). So, the amount of tarsands oil that is likely to find its way into the European market is quite small. However, there are bigger issues at stake.
The Canadian government’s stance on climate change is utterly disgraceful. They have effectively reneged on Kyoto, and time and time again they have made it clear that they have no intention of doing anything substantial to tackle Canada’s emissions. Prime Minister Harper was a climate change denier,when he came to power, and there is no reason to believe that his views have changed. It can be guaranteed that at Durban, Canada will once again be directing its efforts to preventing any effective agreement on carrying Kyoto forward.
The newspapers in Canada have been explaining that, at Durban, Canada will be arguing that tarsands oil with its high emissions should be rebranded “ethical oil“, on the basis that unlike conventional crude from countries such as Saudi Arabia, it comes from a democratic country. This is typical of the government’s cynical approach, to treat the issue as one of PR, not substance.
The last thing Britain should be doing, is reinforcing the Canadian government’s belief that climate change is not to be taken seriously, that somehow Canada is exceptional and should be allowed to continue to ignore the problem in order to develop the tarsands industry.
If Canada is allowed to get away with this, it is, as Dr James Hanson has said “game over for the climate”.
There is no doubt that winding down the tarsands would cause Canada pain, because, like Britain with the finance industry, Canada has been putting all its economic eggs in one basket. However, Canada has had other choices. As recently as 2008, Canadians had the opportunity to vote for Stéphane Dion’s Green Shift, which would have directed economic development away from the tarsands and towards green industries.
I am also very disappointed that Britain has opened a new consulate in Alberta to support Britains economic interests, which effectively means BP and Shell’s tarsands investment.
And I’m saying all this as a resident of Alberta, and thus nominally a tarsands owner. As a result of the industry, the average per capita emissions in Alberta are 72 tonnes CO2e, the highest in the world.
9.57 pm edited this post to replace link to Guardian article with one to BBC article, which explains the issue with greater clarity.