EU lawmakers have relaunched a plan to stigmatise Canada’s tar sands on Wednesday (3 December), despite years of Ottawa’s lobbying the EU bloc as part of its export drive.
European Parliament lawmakers put the plans back on the agenda by voting against the EU executive’s proposal to abandon the scheme.
“With this proposal, Europe is deliberately opening up its market for dirty fuels, such as tar sands from Canada,” said Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, a Dutch member of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, who initiated Wednesday’s vote.
“This decision is weakening our position in the fight against climate change. Especially now that we are negotiating a global deal on climate change, it sends completely the wrong signal,” Gerbrandy said in a statement.
The resolution was passed by the Parliament’s Environment Committee, meaning it still has to get through a full session of the European Parliament in the coming weeks in order to force the European Commission to come up with a new proposal. Getting plenary agreement would be much harder than clearing a committee.
In October, the executive Commission published a new plan for reporting the greenhouse gas intensity of transport fuels, which removed a requirement to have separate values for different types of oil.
That meant tar sands, also known as oil sands, would no longer have to be differentiated from conventional crude, with lower overall greenhouse gas emissions, and that it would make it much easier for the unconventional oil to reach the European market.
Canada and representatives of the oil industry have said unconventional oil has a valuable role in diversifying EU supplies and that Canada’s huge deposits of oil sands, being developed by oil majors such as ExxonMobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, were being unfairly singled out by the original EU plan.
They welcomed the revised Commission proposal in October.
Environmentalists and some politicians cite research findings that over its life-cycle oil sands crude emits more carbon dioxide because of the amount of energy required to separate the crude from the bituminous deposits in which they are found.
“If the EU is serious about tackling climate change it should discourage the development of these highly greenhouse-gas-intensive unconventional fossil fuels,” said Gerbrandy.