The federal government and Alberta are working to weaken climate policies in the U.S. and Europe in order to support the oilsands, according to environmental group Climate Action Network Canada.
The group released a report Monday finding "a concerted effort to weaken climate policies outside our borders, with the aim of ensuring that no doors are closed to Canada's highly polluting tar sands."
The coalition, which consists of environmental, faith and labour organizations, compiled its findings from public documents along with access to information requests, saying "Canada is not just exporting dirty oil anymore; we're also exporting dirty policies."
It's not a responsible way for the governments to act, the coalition said.
"When other countries propose higher environmental standards, the simple and appropriate answer from Canada's governments should be to improve our own performance, helping our own country and others pull them away from dirty energy. Instead, Alberta and Canada have consistently chosen the low road, devoting time, money and political capital to lobbying for weaker standards."
The report points to three attempts to "undermine" climate and clean energy policies:
- California's low-carbon fuel standard, which encourages cleaner fuels and discourages burning dirty fuels.
- A U.S. federal clean-fuels policy known as Section 526, which stops departments from buying the dirtiest kinds of fuels.
- The European Union's Fuel Quality Directive, an effort to move toward cleaner-burning fuels.
The coalition called the campaigning a secret oilsands advocacy strategy led by the Foreign Affairs Department, "with officials working in both the U.S. and the European Union."
"This report shows that the governments of Canada and Alberta have been working very hard on climate change outside our borders — but their efforts have been directed at making the problem worse. It's not too late to live up to Canadians' expectations and start doing the right thing," the report says.
"With this in mind we are calling on the governments of Canada and Alberta to stop all efforts to kill clean energy and climate policy in other countries."
Efforts made against legislation
Climate Action Network Canada gave examples of how the Alberta and federal government strategies were tied to legislation in the U.S. and in Europe.
The group said Alberta worked hard to fight part of the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act — the contested Section 526 — that required the government there to buy fuels that meet an environmental performance standard. The measure essentially made it tougher to find markets for fuel derived from the oilsands.
The Alberta government entered the debate over the provision, Climate Action Network Canada said, and paid handsomely for lobbying.
"According to lobbying disclosure records, just one of the two lobbyists — former Michigan governor James Blanchard, along with others at his firm — participated in over 80 interactions with U.S. officials and politicians in the year beginning March 1, 2009, on behalf of the Government of Alberta.
"In exchange, he billed for over $300,000 US in fees," Climate Action Network Canada said.
The Climate Action Network report also highlights Ottawa's attempts to influence the European Union's efforts to revise its fuel quality directive.
In January 2010, Canada's ambassador to the EU, Ross Hornby, sent a letter to the EU's Environment Directorate, saying the proposal to clean up transportation fuel would "create a large administrative burden and prohibitive costs," according to the report.
The report alleges Hornby told the Europeans that separating oilsands from other types of fuels was "not science-based” and constituted "unjustifiable discrimination."
In a letter, Hornby said the EU's environmental proposals "could potentially distort trade between Canada and the EU," the report says.
"Because they are betting Canada's economic future on highly polluting fossil fuels, the governments of Canada and Alberta see clean energy policies outside of our borders as threats to the tarsands' future prosperity," Climate Action Network Canada said.