European Lawmakers Vote to Pursue Tar Sands Oil Friendly Trade Deal with Canada

Alberta tar sands

EU lawmakers today voted for the European Parliament to push ahead with a trade deal that could encourage Canadian tar sand oil imports and make it easier for energy companies to sue governments when environmental policies threaten their profits.

The UK’s international trade minister, Liam Fox, last year circumvented parliament to approve the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada. The deal now has to be approved by European policymakers.

MEPs in the committee charged with overseeing environmental regulation today voted 40 to 24 for the European Parliament to back the deal, Reuters reports. A final decision is expected in February.

Writing in The Ecologist ahead of the vote, Mark Dearn from campaign group War on Want said the deal had already “put rocket boosters under runaway climate change by bringing high-polluting tar sands oil into Europe”.

Reacting to the vote, he told DeSmog UK:

“The committee's decision on CETA is an utter disgrace. It flies in the face of a wealth of evidence showing CETA to be bad news for the environment, food and health - not least that the EU sacrificed its own climate change legislation to appease the tar sands demands of Big Oil companies and the Canadian and US governments.”

Campaigners are also concerned that the deal will make it easier for companies to sue governments that use environmental regulations to try and move their economies away from fossil fuels.

A mechanism called investor-state dispute settlements is included in the deal, and could allow companies to sue countries that ban tar sands oil. Companies have used the mechanism in Canada to oppose fracking moratoriums, and in Germany to protest the closure of nuclear power plants.

The Canadian government has also objected to EU chemical regulations on over 20 occasions between 2003 and 2011, EnergyDesk has previously revealed, leading to concerns that companies could use CETA to undermine those rules.

Update 12/01/2017 - A quote from Mark Dearn was added. A sentence on chemical regulations was also added.

Main image credit: Dru Oja Jay, Dominion via Flickr CC BY-SA

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