Tar sands: Europe's complicity in Canada's climate crimes

3 December 2015

Europe must close its doors to tar sands if it is to avoid climate catastrophe, say European and Canadian environmental organisations in a new report published today. As the international climate talks in Paris continue, the new Canadian government continues to back the tar sands, which will undermine global efforts to tackle climate change.

Because the European Union failed to discourage the use of tar sands with its Fuel Quality Directive, tar sands continue to arrive in Europe, with almost three quarters of Europe's oil refineries tar-sands-ready. Tar sands, one of the most environmentally devastating fuels in production, must not continue to expand. Plans must be put in motion now to transition to 100% fossil-fuel-free in order to keep global warming below 2°C.

Colin Roche, extractive industries campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Europe must close its doors to climate-killing fuels like tar sands, and Canada must stop digging them up. The first shipments have already arrived in Europe. If we're to keep global warming below 2°C we urgently need to make sure tar sands stay in the ground and ban tar sands on the European market."

While the new Canadian and Albertan governments have made some good commitments on climate action, according to the organisations, they continue to support expanded tar sands extraction. Albertan premier Rachel Notley's newly released climate plan features important steps for phasing out coal and supporting renewable energy, but the proposed emissions cap allows for a close to 40% increase in tar sands production. Prime Minister Trudeau's new Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion recently gave support for 'sustainable development' in Canada's tar sands.

Andrea Harden of Council of Canadians said: "The new government must recognise there's no such thing as 'sustainable' development of the tar sands. We need to do our fair share to keep temperature well below 2 degrees and that includes freezing tar sands expansion and planning for 100% fossil free future by 2050. This is critical to a credible Canadian climate change policy. While the Albertan plan is a clear shift in the right direction, climate science demands far more."

Current climate pledges made in advance of the negotiations in Paris this week leave the world on track to 3°C degrees of global warming, and potentially devastating climate impacts for billions of people.

Colin Roche continued: "We're staring climate destruction in the face, and the Canadian and European pledges for Paris are wildly inadequate. If we are to take steps towards democratic and renewable energy systems, and to keep global warming below 2°C, we need to leave tar sands in the ground."