Canada's Drive to Kill U.S. and European Clean Energy Policies

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Canada isn’t just exporting dirty oil; it’s exporting dirty policies. This report details the campaign to open markets everywhere to the tar sands’ dirty oil.

Executive Summary of The Tar Sands Long Shadow: Canada’s Campaign to Kill Climate Policies Outside our Borders, published by Climate Action Network

Over the last few years, Canada’s federal government has systematically tried to kill clean energy and climate change policies in other countries in order to promote the interests of oil companies. Its efforts are assisted by the Government of Alberta, and both governments draw some of their arguments straight from tar sands companies themselves.

By now, it’s common knowledge that the Government of Canada is a laggard on climate change action, thanks to its weak target and the lack of any real plan to meet it. Similarly, the Government of Alberta’s multi-million dollar public relations campaign in support of the tar sands has received quite a bit of media scrutiny.

But this report isn’t just about op-eds and advertisements. The governments of Canada and Alberta are also engaged in something much more serious: 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.

In other words, Canada is not just exporting dirty oil anymore; we’re also exporting dirty policies.

This report documents three specific Canadian attempts to undermine climate and clean energy policies outside our borders by lobbying against the following policies in other countries. The governments of Canada and Alberta are running campaigns to weaken:

  • California’s low-carbon fuel standard, which encourages cleaner burning fuels and discourages dirty fuels
  • a U.S. federal clean fuels policy known as Section 526, which prevents government departments from buying the dirtiest kinds of fuels, and
  • the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive, which is designed to help Europe move towards cleaner burning fuels

Unfortunately, those specific examples appear to be just the tip of the iceberg. Our report is based on a database of government letters, memos, speeches, and lobbyist reports — some of which have never been released before — that Climate Action Network Canada has assembled. Using Access to Information requests, we have uncovered evidence of a secretive “Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy” led by the federal Department of Foreign Affairs, with officials working in both the U.S. and the European Union.

Sadly, these attempts to ensure that no markets anywhere in the world are closed to the tar sands’ dirty oil are easily the most proactive part of Canada’s “climate policy.”

By pinning their hopes to an ever-expanding tar sands sector, Canada and Alberta are making a bet that the world won’t move to tackle climate change. In the process, they’re squandering Canada’s chance to be a leader in the clean energy economy: while other countries are investing in wind and solar, Canada is cutting funding to renewable power and subsidizing the tar sands. Even worse, our governments’ approach ignores the consequences of climate change itself, putting people inside and outside of Canada at risk of devastating impacts that include droughts, storms, floods, and the spread of disease.

It’s urgent that Canada fixes its climate policy failures at home. Over and above that, Canada and Alberta must stop lobbying for dirty energy outside our borders. Those governments must start representing Canadians, not the oil industry, when they engage with other governments.

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. 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.

Read the full report here (HTML) or here (PDF)