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Lobby-busting tour: Canadians support EU climate action

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What a whirlwind day. I just returned from a series of four meetings with EU Embassies in Ottawa, with more to come over the coming days. These meetings are part of a lobby-busting tour organized by the Council of Canadians, joined by the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and Climate Action Network Canada (CAN Canada).

Our purpose is to meet with EU Embassies and challenge the arguments being brought forward by Canadian lobbying against the EU Fuel Quality Directive (FQD). The tour came to being after being informed that CAPP had requested meetings with at least one Embassy in Ottawa, and as part of our ongoing efforts to challenge Canadian lobbying against this policy.

I was joined today by Clayton Thomas Muller, Tar Sands Director with IEN and Hannah McKinnon, Political Director with CAN Canada.

The EU FQD is a policy aimed at reducing emissions from the transportation sector, the only sector where emissions have increased over the past two decades. It does so by obliging suppliers to reduce the life-cycle greenhouse gas intensity of transport fuel by 6 per cent by 2020 compared to 2010.

The Canadian and Albertan governments joined by industry active in the tar sands -- as revealed in access to information documents outlining a Pan European Advocacy Strategy -- have engaged in a well-funded PR campaign targeting the EU FQD. This is because the policy includes a default value for bitumen (what is produced in the tar sands) that recognizes it is a high-carbon fuel, thereby discouraging its use.

While this lobby often argues this is discriminatory, in fact, the policy applies to bitumen produced anywhere, includes values for other high carbon unconventional crudes (shale oil, gas to oil, coal to oil) and even has a provision that allows a tar sands producer to demonstrate their crude is less emissions-intense resulting in a different value being applied.

While none of us are experts on the depth and breadth of this policy (and its other major aspects), we requested meetings with EU Embassies in order to debunk misconceptions like this being brought forward by Canadian lobbying.

We are also concerned to hear from our European allies and read in the news that countries, particularly those with industries active in the tar sands such as the U.K., have made statements suggesting they may not support the European Commission's proposal. We want to provide another side to the story on how we feel many Canadians do support policy aimed at reducing emissions, including recognizing the carbon intensity of tar sands crude.

Over the coming days the three of us will meet with 15 embassies. In addition to our discussions, we are delivering a kit of information that includes:

- an open letter endorsed by 25 organizations challenging Canadian lobbying that states: On behalf of millions of Canadians, please put our collective need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions ahead of narrow commercial interests and advance the European Commission's EU FQD proposal
- a document countering common lobbying arguments
- a letter from the Office of the Leader of the Green Party of Canada support the FQD
- a Friends of the Earth Europe report documenting Canadian lobbying
- a Q & A on the FQD
- an IEN document on indigenous rights and tar sands
- legal analysis on CETA and the tar sands

We will have a copy of this kit available early next week and should have more elements soon that add further support to many Canadians supporting the EU FQD.

Today's meetings with the Polish, Finish, Greek and Hungarian Embassies were certainly enlightening. The Ambassadors and staff we met were knowledgeable of the policy and Canadian lobbying efforts. We were assured that our discussion and information will be shared with their capitals.

We learned both of support for, and questions regarding the EU FQD and particular country-specific concerns. During the meeting at the Polish Embassy, a number of questions were raised regarding CETA, which they reported Poland fully supports. In all meetings, the legal analysis the Council and allies commissioned on CETA and the tar sands was welcomed. Overall, while many countries are still establishing their position on the EU FQD, we certainly heard supportive language.

More in the days to come about our three organizations contributions to these meetings and outcomes.

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