Tar Sands and the CETA

Source: CCPA

October 14, 2011

By Scott Sinclair, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

The recent decision by the European Union (EU) to disregard Canadian government pressure and forge ahead with regulations that recognise the higher green-house-gas intensity of fuel produced from tar sands and oil shale is encouraging.   The Canadian government has lobbied furiously against Article 7a of the European Fuel Quality Directive and is even threatening to challenge the measure under international trade rules.

The Canadian government position flies in the face of increased scientific certainty that the ever-expanding exploitation of oil sands reserves within Canada and around the world would lead to disastrous climate change.  In the words of climate scientist James Hansen, “Policy makers need to understand that these unconventional fossil fuels, which are as dirty and polluting as coal, must be left in the ground if we wish future generations to have a liveable planet.”

Effective environmental regulation of the Canadian tar sands is absolutely necessary, yet will likely only occur in either of two ways:

1)        Canadian governments will come to their senses and curb the pace and scale of development, while protecting the region’s First Nations, downstream communities and the global environment.

2)         Governments and consumers in both importing and non-importing countries will apply pressure on Canada and the industry to fully account for the high environmental costs of this form of energy production, thereby making alternative, less polluting forms of energy more viable.

The proposed investment protection rules in the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), however, could obstruct both these paths to a more environmentally sustainable future.  Should the rights of multinational investors trump democratic rights and the protection of the environment?