Oilsands critics in Europe to counter fuel directive lobby

The Canadian government isn't alone in lobbying European governments about the European Commission's proposed new fuel quality directive (FQD).

Council of Canadians, Climate Action Network and Assembly of First Nations lobby European politicians

The Canadian government isn't alone in lobbying European governments about the European Commission's proposed new fuel quality directive (FQD).

A trio of stakeholder groups concerned about oilsands development were in London, England, Thursday, looking to counter the Harper government's attempt at blocking the directive.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, right, met with Guenther Oettinger, European Union energy commissioner, to reinforce Canada's position on the European Fuel Quality Directive on March 13 during talks in Kuwait. (Handout/Natural Resources Canada)

Representatives from the Council of Canadians, Climate Action Network and the Assembly of First Nations met with members of the U.K. Liberal Democrats at their party headquarters near the British Parliament at Westminster.

"We think a lot of what they've been hearing [from the Canadian government] is misinformation. So we were there to present the other side of the story," Hannah McKinnon, campaigns director for Climate Action Network Canada, told CBC News.

The Liberal Democrats are the junior party in British Prime Minister David Cameron's governing coalition. Ed Davey, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, is a Liberal Democrat.

The Canadian government argues that the new FQD is overly hard on Alberta oilsands crude.

Last week at the International Energy Forum meeting in Kuwait, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver spoke directly with his counterparts from Europe about the issue. He presented them with a letter explaining why Ottawa considers the FQD unfair.

"Any proposed implementing measure that provides separate, more onerous treatment for oilsands-derived crude oil relative to other crude oils with similar or higher GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions intensities is discriminatory, and potentially violates the European Union's international trade obligations," wrote Oliver in the letter to European Energy Commissioner, Güenther Oettinger.

The letter was also sent to the ministers of energy and environment of every EU-member nation.

Oilsands critics support directive

"This is not a discriminatory policy ... in fact, it treats Canadian tar sands as it would treat any other tar sands," said Stuart Trew, trade campaigner for the Council of Canadians. He also said that Canada can threaten to take the EU to the World Trade Organization if it wants, but the WTO will probably refuse to hear the case because the market for Canadian oil in Europe is so small.

Chief Bill Erasmus agreed with Trew's assessment of the policy.

"The reality over here is, I think, Canada is embarrassing itself to a large degree and that has to be understood," Erasmus said.

Erasmus also outlined the position of the Assembly of First Nations on Canadian oil.  "We're not saying kill the pipeline or kill the oilsands or tarsands development. We're saying no more expansion at this point."

The group is in Europe for a week of meetings with politicians, policy analysts and bureaucrats in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K.

On Friday, members head to Berlin for the weekend, where they will meet Peter Boehm, the Canadian ambassador to Germany and various governing and opposition politicians.

Oliver's office said in a statement Thursday that the Canadian government doesn't object to the FQD's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions for transportation fuels used in Europe.

However, Oliver's office said the government continues to object to "any discriminatory treatment that singles out oil sands-derived fuels without sound scientific justification."

"If unjustified and discriminatory measures to implement the FQD are ultimately put in place, Canada will not hesitate to defend its interests."