Message to Obama: Climate leaders don’t buy tar sands

Press release - 15 September, 2009
Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada - 15 September 2009 - As Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper prepares to meet US President Barack Obama in Washington, 25 Greenpeace activists from Canada, the US, and France have blocked a mining operation at the Shell Albion Sands open-pit mine in Northern Alberta, and placed a giant banner reading "Tar Sands: Climate Crime."

The activists entered the site at 8 am surrounding and scaling a three storey high truck and hydraulic shovel - among the largest in the world and blockading them with pick-up trucks chained together. "Greenpeace has come here today, to the frontiers of climate destruction to block this giant mining operation and tell Harper and Obama meeting tomorrow that climate leaders don't buy tar sands" said Mike Hudema, Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner, from inside the blockade. "The tar sands are a devastating example of how our future will look unless urgent action is taken to protect the climate."

Found under the boreal forest in Western Canada, the Alberta tar sands is the biggest industrial energy and capital project on the planet. Extracting and upgrading the heavy bitumen emits between 3-5 times more greenhouse gas emissions than the production of conventional oil.

If allowed to continue emissions from the tar sands could grow to between 127 and 140 million tonnes a year by 2020, - more, for example, than the current emissions of Denmark as outlined in a new Greenpeace report (1).

The US is the world's biggest oil addict, consuming around 60% of tar sands oil. The tar sands tie Canada and the US to a high emissions future and a low ambition in tackling climate change. Today's action targeted a mining operation owned by Shell, one of numerous oil companies in the tar sands. Other companies including BP, Suncor, Syncrude, ExxonMobil, Total and StatoilHydro all have heavy investments in tar sands operations.

In 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 (2). The continued development of the tar sands and the lust for oil threatens to derail international climate action.

"The tar sands are one of the biggest climate crimes on the planet," said Paul Horsman of Greenpeace International. "It doesn't have to be like this - Obama can start by taking climate leadership, turning away from dirty tar sands oil and embracing a green energy future."


Live streaming of the action is available at and

Other Contacts: Activists from Canada, France and the US are available for onsite interviews - Contacts - in Canada: Mike Hudema, Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner +1 780 504-5601 (on location at the blockade)

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

Paul Horsman, Greenpeace International climate and energy campaign coordinator +1 780 972 1328

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)  See

(2)  At Copenhagen, 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. 2) Mitigation actions for developing countries to achieve a 15-30% deviation from business as usual growth by 2020. 3) 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.