NEWS: Verheul threatens to take EU to WTO over European Fuel Quality Directive

Brent Patterson
9 années ago
The Wall Street Journal reports today, "Canada claims (the European Fuel Quality Directive) would unfairly penalize oil sands crude, and says it could refer Brussels to the World Trade Organization if the legislation isn't changed. 'If the EU proceeds with an approach that's going to discriminate against oil sands, we would look to protect our interests, and that includes through international institutions like the WTO,' said Steve Verheul, Canada's chief trade negotiator with the EU (on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA), in an interview on Monday." "The (EU) decision to give a separate value to oil sands proved controversial. Canadian officials have denounced the idea of having a separate category for oil sands as a barrier to trade. They say it ignores the fact that many types of crude entering the EU market—such as heavy oil from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela—were from higher-emitting sources than oil sands. 'They should all be assessed on the same basis,' Mr. Verheul said. In a concession to the Canadians, the (European) Commission has said it will examine the greenhouse gas intensity of other types of oil and add them to the list if warranted, to demonstrate the 'non-discriminatory' nature of the implementing measure." "Canada's exports of oil sands crude to Europe are negligible—though they could rise if the Keystone XL pipeline goes ahead. But Ottawa fears that any EU legislation singling out the fuel could set a precedent, encouraging oil sands critics in other jurisdictions—particularly in the U.S., the Alberta oil industry's main export market—to push for similar measures." "Canada has continued to lobby hard against (the European Fuel Quality Directive). 'Despite the fact that the Commission now has peer-reviewed credible science to back up its position, the Canadians are asking for further research and further delays,' says a report by environmental group Friends of the Earth entitled Canada's Dirty Lobby Diary. 'Essentially, the Canadians are trying to scupper European climate protection measures to protect their interests—primarily in America.'" TIMELINE March 25, 2010: The Council of Canadians highlights a Reuters report that, “The European Union has yielded to Canadian demands it remove possible trade barriers to polluting oil sands to avoid further damage to ties, according to sources and leaked documents. …Canadian Ambassador Ross Hornby told a top official at the European Union’s executive in a letter seen by Reuters… that draft EU standards to promote greener fuels are too unwieldy and will harm the market for its oil sands… Several sources said Canada had raised the issue frequently during trade talks with the EU. …Hornby confirmed he had written such a letter, which was released by the Commission under freedom of information laws.” July 21: We further highlight that the Harper government had linked the European Fuel Quality Directive to CETA talks given an Inter Press Service report that, “Ross Hornby, Canada’s ambassador in Brussels, wrote to Karl Falkenberg, head of the European Commission’s environment department, in January. Hornby’s letter… objected to a proposal that fuels derived from tar sands would be treated differently to those using conventional crude oil. (The letter said that) would constitute a ‘barrier’ to trade…” November 4: The Council of Canadians and the Indigenous Environmental Network launch a legal opinion by Steven Shrybman titled, Potential Impacts of the Proposed Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement on the Pace and Character of Oil Sands Development. Shrybman writes, “It is not a stretch to say the Canadian government sees the CETA negotiations as a tool for constraining the ability of the EU to pass regulations or other domestic measures that would differentiate between products based on their carbon content. The proposed EU Fuel Quality Directive, which would categorize crude derived from the tar sands differently than conventional oil, has already suffered from heavy Canadian and Alberta government lobbying. The Canadian government has proven its willingness to contest similar measures in the United States using international trade and investment rules. CETA also risks granting EU energy companies added investment protections and tools to challenge future Canadian or provincial efforts to regulate tar sands production more effectively.” January 21, 2011: The Council of Canadians was in Strasbourg, France to brief Members of the European Parliament on our concerns about CETA. At a meeting twenty-one representatives of the European Parliament’s trade committee, an uninvited Canadian embassy official turned up to challenge our comments related to the tar sands and Europe’s fuel quality directive. She denied that Canada had raised this issue in relation to CETA. We easily countered her assertions (by referring to the Reuters and IPS news reports noted above) and were strongly supported by an MEP who raised objections to Canada’s role in killing the second binding phase of the Kyoto protocol at the United Nations climate negotiations this past December in Cancun. February 21: Reuters reports that, “Canada has threatened to scrap a trade deal with the European Union if the EU persists with plans that would block imports of Canada’s highly polluting tar sands, according to EU documents and sources. …Sources said Monday (February 21) that Canada had gone further (than just raising concerns), threatening to void the free trade deal, which is expected to be agreed later this year. Canadian officials denied they have threatened to scrap the trade deal, but said they are concerned about how the oil sands oil will be treated under the EU’s fuel directive. ‘Canada and the European Union are working to resolve the issue outside of the negotiations towards a free trade deal,’ International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan said in a statement to Reuters.” February 23: The Toronto Sun/ Reuters reports that, “Europe’s trade and climate chiefs are preparing to take a stand against imports of oil from Canada’s polluting tarsands, despite fears the move might wreck a multi-billion dollar trade deal, according to EU sources and documents. …Last year the European Union appeared to back down on the issue, putting commerce ahead of a strategy to curb greenhouse gases from transport fuels by 6 percent this decade. But EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht and climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard have spent months checking the robustness of methodology to measure the carbon footprint of fuels and are close to taking a stand on those that are the most carbon-intensive, according to internal EU documents and sources. …One EU official said that backing down on tarsands would ‘undermine the credibility’ of Hedegaard’s team and politically would be ‘a highly dangerous route for the commissioner to proceed down.’ …Canadian officials have questioned the robustness of the EU methodology. …EU sources say they expect (Canada) to mount a (WTO challenge (against them) on tarsands…” February 24: Postmedia News reports that, “A battle over foreign environmental policies that target Alberta’s oilsands has spilled over into a meeting between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso, according to newly released EU documents. The briefing notes prepared by EU officials for the negotiations reveal Canadian officials at the highest levels were pressuring their European counterparts to turn away from stringent environmental policies in order to protect the oilsands industry. One document, prepared in the context of Harper’s meeting with Barroso at a Canada-EU summit in May 2010, noted that Natural Resources Canada officials had requested and obtained a meeting to discuss concerns about a proposed European fuel-quality directive that would restrict imports of fuel originating from Alberta because of its environmental footprint. …Van Loan was not immediately able to answer why the issue was raised during the trade negotiations.” March 21: The Globe and Mail reports, “Canada’s ambassador to the European Union privately promised EU politicians a year ago that the (Harper) government would bring in regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands, newly released documents indicate. But Ottawa has yet to act on that commitment. Meetings between Ambassador Ross Hornby and European parliamentarians were part of a campaign to derail the EU’s proposed clean-fuel standards that would penalize the oil sands as ‘dirty fuel’.” April 7: Member of the European Parliament Satu Hassi was on CBC Radio The Current. She states at that time, “The government of Canada has been lobbying us (on the tar sands) in a manner that is not acceptable.” The Green Party MEP from Finland is critical of how the Harper government has lobbied against the proposed European Fuel Quality Directive, which seeks to put a measure on the carbon footprint of fuels, including those coming from the northern Alberta tar sands. April 8: The Council of Canadians and civil society groups sends a letter to Haper government officials saying that the Canadian government should stop lobbying the European Parliament and European Commission to weaken a popular European Union climate measure aimed at reducing the carbon content of transportation fuels. The letter was in response to news that the Harper government has again threatened to take the EU's Fuel Quality Directive to the World Trade Organization if it contains higher carbon content values for tar sands derived crude than conventional fuel.