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Harper seeks to derail Fuel Quality Directive in European Parliament vote

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The Council of Canadians has long supported the European Fuel Quality Directive and has sought to protect it from being undermined by the Harper government. The directive is a modest climate measure to reduce emissions from transport fuel by 6 per cent by 2020. Part of that plan was to assign specific carbon intensities to different types of oil, with tar sands and fracked oil obviously having higher values. The Harper government opposes this in part because it would hinder Energy East pipeline exports to Europe.

This week, the Financial Post reports, "In October, after years of lobbying by industry groups and the Canadian and Albertan governments on the EU Fuel Quality Directive, a new proposal by the European Commission removed direct references to the [tar sands] and instead demanded refiners report an average emissions intensity for the oil they process. ...Under the October proposal [tar sands] would no longer have to be differentiated from conventional crude, with lower overall greenhouse gas emissions. That would make it much easier for the unconventional oil to reach the European market."

But there was a major development on Wednesday.

The news article highlights, "Wednesday's vote by a parliamentary committee would veto that October proposal. The vote was passed at committee level, 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."

In a media release, our ally Transport & Environment explains, "Today's vote by members of the Environment Committee against the proposed fuel quality rules sends a strong message to the European Commission that its implementing measures are too weak and fail to discourage oil companies from using and investing in the world's dirtiest oil. The vote also reinforces MEPs' support for a strong implementation of the Fuel Quality Directive's (FQD) decarbonisation target and its continuation after 2020."

But it's clear the Harper government will keep fighting against the Fuel Quality Directive, as it has all along. Federal Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford commented, "We continue our work with members of the European Parliament and are hoping for a positive result."

This past July, the Council of Canadians jointly released the report Dirty Deals: How trade talks threaten to undermine EU climate policies and bring tar sands to Europe with Friends of the Earth, Transport & Environment, Greenpeace, and Sierra Club U.S.

At that time, Council of Canadians trade campaigner Scott Harris commented, "The delay and weakening of the European Fuel Quality Directive once again reveals that agreements like the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) are less about trade and more about limiting the ability of governments to effectively regulate in the public interest. Even before it is signed, CETA is being used to water down much-needed public policy. Imagine what will happen to regulations on both sides of the Atlantic if the deal is actually implemented."

The issue will be voted on in the European Parliament on December 16.

More soon.

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