Will UK scupper EU tar sands ban vote next week?
People & Planet activists challenge the tar sands
After being delayed for over 2 months, the EU is set to vote on the Fuel Quality Directive, legislation that would effectively ban tar sands from European import. The vote is scheduled to take place on 23 February.
Under intense lobbying from the Canadian Government, keen to create new markets for its dirty oil and stop the EU from setting a precedent for the rest of the world to follow, the UK Government is refusing to support the European Commission’s proposal, and actively encouraging other states to oppose it.
Tell Norman Baker and Nick Clegg there is no place for dirty oil in a green European Union! Keep the pressure up!
In November, over 800 People & Planet supporters wrote to Under Secretary of State for Transport and self-proclaimed environmentalist, Norman Baker, telling him to vote for the ban.
With the vote once again imminent, we want to raise the pressure on Norman Baker and his boss Nick Clegg, to make the EU tarsands ban a crucial issue for LibDems in the Coalition government. Supporting a tarsands ban in the EU is essential to maintaining the Liberal Democrat party’s strong reputation on the environment.
With Barack Obama’s recent move to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, (which aimed to pump tar sands from Alberta to Texas), and growing First Nations protests against a proposed Enbridge pipeline to Canada’s west coast (to supply eastern markets, such as China) the world’s doors are closing to Canada’s dirty oil. Without the demand, industry cannot justify its planned expansion.
Take 2 minutes and send Norman Baker and Nick Clegg an email telling them that there is no place for dirty oil in a green European Union!
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Reply from the office of Nick Clegg MP:
Thank you for taking the time to contact Nick Clegg MP with regard to the EU Fuel Quality Directive and the treatment of Tar Sands (sometimes known as oil sands) within that Directive. I am replying on his behalf.
Many people contacted Nick about this issue, and we are quite aware of the strength of feeling when it comes to protecting our environment. As a party, we are proud of our environmental credentials, and would like to explain why the Government's agenda with regard to the EU Fuel Quality Directive is constistent with this.
To provide some background, the EU Fuel Quality Directive requires that fuel suppliers reduce the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy (“GHG intensity”) of the fuel/energy they supply by 6 per cent by 2020. For the avoidance of any doubt, the EU Directive already exists and the Government fully supports it. However, what is still undecided is how crudes are dealt with in the Directive.
The current European Commission proposal focuses on specific default values for oil sands and oil shale, but these are hardly used in Europe at all. It ignores the nearly 99% of other crudes sources, which the proposals average together under a single default value for “conventional” crudes. What we know, as a result of the Brandt report, is that some of the crudes within the “conventional” category have much higher emissions than others. However, because this group’s GHG intensity is based on the average of all the “conventional” crudes, the true environmental impact of these higher polluting crudes would be masked by a single default value. The Government is arguing that this should not be the case and that the higher polluting crudes, whether considered “conventional” or not, should be treated in a manner that reflects their emissions, so as to drive down damaging greenhouse gas emissions.
What the Government is seeking to achieve is to introduce a banding system – high, medium and low – which is based on robust and independent scientific research and which enables crudes to be dealt with in a way which reflects their emissions. This would, of course, mean that oil sands and oil shale, which are certainly a significant environmental concern, would be placed in the high banding, as should be the case. It would also mean that other “conventional” crudes which under the current proposals are clumped together would be separated into bands based on their emissions. This would prevent dirty crudes, which we know are currently in the “conventional” category, getting an easy ride just because the aggregate categorisation of this group means their true environmental impact is being brought down by less polluting “conventional” crudes.
Some have argued that the Government should just accept the proposals that are on the table now, which only really tackle oil sands and oil shale in a robust manner, and hope that when we reach the proposed 2015 review date we reassess the crudes that have been put in the “conventional” category. Even if the 2015 review took place as scheduled - there being no guarantee that it will not slip well beyond that date - and we did then differentiate between the crudes in the “conventional” category, we would still have allowed a three year period to pass without them being treated in a way that reflects their emissions.
It should also be pointed out that even if the action proposed by some pressure groups was enacted in full, it would not prevent oil sands products being imported into Europe.
Some have suggested that the Government is delaying matters. We would argue that putting off consideration of conventional crudescrudes that can be implemented quickly and would be better for the environment in the short to medium term.
The Lib Dems have long campaigned on environmental causes and continue to do this in government. The Liberal Democrat MP, Norman Baker, who is the lead Minister on this issue, is a staunch environmentalist and a long time campaigner on environmental issues. We therefore have no doubt whatsoever that securing the best deal for the environment is at the forefront of the approach he is taking on this issue.
I hope that this is helpful, and thank you once again for contacting Nick Clegg.
Office of Nick Clegg MP