Greenpeace calls for closure of Canada’s deadly tar sands

Activists blockade another major tar sands operation

Press release - 30 September, 2009
Greenpeace activists from Canada, France, Germany and Brazil today occupied two conveyor belts used to transfer bitumen from an open pit mine to a processing plant owned by Canadian oil giant Suncor, demanding the closure of the tar sands.

"Greenpeace has taken action here today in the heart of the tar sands, the frontiers of climate destruction" said Bruce Cox, Greenpeace Canada Executive Director from the action site. "We are here to drive the message home to world governments that we need urgent climate leadership, and that means stopping the tar sands." (1) 

Tar sands oil is the dirtiest on the planet, emitting 3-5 times the emissions of conventional oil in production alone. Suncor, the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the tar sands, is heavily financed by numerous international financial institutions. (2) Today's action, two weeks after Greenpeace successfully stopped operations at a Shell tar sands mining operation, comes just a week after Rajendra Pachauri the Nobel Peace Prize winner and head of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said Canada is failing on climate action, and should consider putting its tar sands developments on hold.

People and the planet are literally dying from the lack of climate leadership: It is estimated that over 300,000 people will die this year due to climate change related impacts, while over 20 million more will be displaced. The action also highlighted how the tar sands not only spell climate disaster and wanton destruction, but poison the Athabasca river, a Canadian heritage river, and the people whose lives and livelihoods depend on it.

"Greenhouse gas emissions are just one element of the crimes happening in the tar sands," said Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema. "Around 11 million litres of toxic chemicals, including carcinogens and other deadly poisons are leaking into groundwater and the Athabasca and poisoning entire communities. Their food is contaminated, their water unsafe to swim in, let alone drink. This is not what the world expects from Canada, but it's the grim reality."

It's not too late to stop this global climate crime and embrace a clean energy future. This December, the world has an historic opportunity to step back from the brink of catastrophic climate change. At the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, world leaders must agree urgent measures to save the climate. (3) They must agree a fair, ambitious and binding deal to avert climate chaos. The continued development of the tar sands threatens to derail international climate action and must be abandoned.

Other contacts: Jo Kuper, Greenpeace International communications + 1 647 865 2811 / +31 6 46 16 20 39

Bruce Cox, Greenpeace Canada executive director + 1 (780) 880-8536

Jessica Wilson, Greenpeace Canada media and public relations officer + 1 778 228-5404

Mike Hudema, Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner + 1 (780) 504-5601 in Edmonton, available for interview

Photo and video contacts:

John Novis, Greenpeace International Head of Photography (currently in Beijing) +86 139 1062 4914 / +44 (0) 7801 615 889

Michael Nagasaka, Greenpeace International Video Producer +44 7533 625 409

Notes: (1) The tar sands cover an area larger than England. Developing them has created the largest industrial development project on the planet. Plans for further development, driven largely by European companies producing for US markets, mean that the tar sands could emit between 127 and 140 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year by 2020, more than the annual emissions of Denmark.

(2) Investors in Suncor include RBC, Canada; Chevron, US; Barclays, HSBC, Aviva, UK; Deutsche Bank, Allianz, Germany; Stichting Pensioenfonds, ING Groep, the Netherlands; Credit Suisse, Switzerland; Crédit Agricole, Paribas, France.

(3) At Copenhagen, world governments must agree:

  • Legally binding emission cuts for industrialised countries, as a group, of at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. Additionally, industrialised countries must make available at least USD 140 billion annually, to support clean energy and other mitigation activities, forest protection and adaptation in developing countries.
  • Mitigation actions for developing countries to achieve a 15-30% deviation from business as usual growth by 2020.
  • A funding mechanism to end gross deforestation in all developing countries by 2020, and achieving zero deforestation by 2015 in priority areas, such as the Amazon, the Congo Basin, and the Paradise forests.
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