Tar Pit #3The European Union is attempting to throw open its doors to dirty tar sands oil, by abandoning its plan to label tar sands oil as highly polluting.  After years of frustrating delays for climate campaigners, the EU appears to have caved in to intense lobbying efforts by oil giants and pressure from the Canadian government to ensure a European market for tar sands from Alberta.

The move represents a shocking U-turn against the European Union’s own proposals for Fuel Quality standards which would have differentiated between fuels based on their carbon-intensity in an attempt to reduce Europe’s transport emissions by 6% by 2020.  Their own experts and investigations had already concluded in 2011 that fuel from tar sands oil contained at least 21% more carbon than other forms of transport fuel.  This evidence is now being swept under the carpet.

Despite a five year battle by environmental groups in Canada and Europe to correctly label oil from the Alberta tar sands as more polluting than conventional crude, today’s proposal from the EU Commission shows this wording has been removed from the bloc’s Fuel Quality Directive.  Instead the proposal only requires refiners to report an average of the feedstock used in fuels.

This move represents one more nail in the coffin of crucial EU climate legislation and exposes the power of the fossil fuel industry and trade deals to halt progress on climate change. This is exactly the type of trade-off that gives rise to the genuine concerns surrounding agreements like CETA and TTIP amongst EU citizens.

For years campaigners across Europe have argued that closing off European markets to tar sands oil was crucial in halting the expansion of the Albertan tar sands industry, which former NASA Director James Hansen has dubbed ‘game over for the climate’.

Now the door seems wide open and in fact, just days ahead of the announcement, Exxon  announced it would begin work to upgrade an Antwerp refinery, hoping to increase production of hydrocarbon fluids by nearly 10%. Some tar sands oil has already started arriving into Europe this year through ports in Spain.

The Commission’s revised proposal still has to be debated by member states through a fast-track procedure meant to take less than two months and it also needs a sign off from the European Parliament.

This Saturday, protestors will take to the streets to rally against these corporate trade deals. Over 300 demonstrations are planned in hundreds of cities and towns across EU Member States. It is time our trade policy started to work for, not against people.

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