23 Greenpeace activists blockade tar sands operation

Feature story - 1 October, 2009
'Dying for climate leadership' - is the message 23 Greenpeace activists, from Canada, France, Germany and Brazil, took to the heart of Canada’s deadly tar sands development today. Shutting down a conveyor belt in an open pit mine, they renewed the call for the Tar Sands to be abandoned - in the interest of the climate and the health of the local people.

Tar sands development is projected to encompass an area larger than England.

Inside a Suncor property in the tar sands of northern Alberta, the activists have shut down a conveyer belt used for extraction of tar sands at the nearby open pit mine owned by Canada's largest oil company, holding banners reading: 'Tar sands climate crime.' Activists also deployed a giant floating banner reading 'Dying for climate leadership' on the river flowing past the mine.

Dying for climate leadership

It is the second action in recent weeks to oppose the continued development of this vast and dirty oil reserve which is trapped deep underneath vast sections of Canada's boreal forest and mixed into the soil - making extraction and processing difficult and extremely energy intensive. Our previous action brought Shell's Albian mine to a halt, where 25 activists occupied two giant dumptrucks and a crane for over 30 hours. 

People and planet are quite literally dying for climate leadership. The recent ' Human Impact Report' released by the Global Humanitarian Forum estimated that over 300,000 people will die this year due to the impacts of climate change and over 20 million more will be displaced from their homes.

The climate toll will only worsen if action is not taken this December at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen - where world leaders must agree a fair, ambitious and binding climate protection deal. A deal that would make high greenhouse gas emission projects like the tar sands impossible.

You're doing it wrong

Our world leaders are not living up to the word 'leaders' - the tar sands are a testament to the current lack of global leadership on climate. "Everything about the tars sands is a crime, they not only represent the worst excesses of unconstrained climate destruction but are a toxic disaster zone," Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, commented.

The health and livelihood of local communities living downstream from the tar sands developments are being directly affected. First Nations people who rely on the river for their livelihoods are increasingly finding the fish appearing covered with tumours and mutations and amongst those who eat the local duck, moose and fish, there are unusually high rates of renal failure, lupus, hyperthyroidism and a particularly rare type of cancer.

This global climate crime is a direct result of the world's addiction to fossil fuels, and the continued development of this source of dirty oil threatens to sabotage international action on climate change. The tar sands are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada - and are jeoporadising Canada's ability to meet the emission reduction targets necessary to avoid runaway climate change. This creates a serious obstacle for global action on climate change.

"In the last couple of years, I'm afraid, Canada has not been seen as sitting at the table," Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change commented while in Montreal last week. He said that Canada needed to be doing more to tackle climate change and should consider putting the tar sands on hold.

The tar sands are the largest energy project and the largest capital investment project on the planet - this means that the continued development of this climate crime is fueled by companies and investors from all over the world and stopping it requires global climate action. This is why our activists from France, Germany, Brazil and Canada are today demanding leadership on climate change from inside one of the most horrifying examples of unchecked climate change and an unconstrained oil industry - a literal wasteland.

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