Greenpeace activists sent a clear message today to the European Union officials attending a speech by Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent: Climate leaders don’t buy tar sands.

We undertook this action to show support for the EU’s proposed clean fuel legislation (called the Fuel Quality Directive) that would require reductions in the carbon content of transportation fuels. The Harper government’s  lobbying campaign against this has been described by EU politicians as “massive” and “stunning in its intensity”. According to documents obtained under access to information legislation, the Harper government’s “Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy” labels environmental and aboriginal groups as “adversaries”, while oil companies are their “allies”.

This aggressive campaign was again on display in Montreal, when Minister Kent spoke at the Going Green conference (an event which is co-sponsored by the European Commission). In his speech, Minister Kent attacked Europe’s proposed clean fuel legislation, saying: 

"Canada’s oil sands are a perfect example of an issue in which discussion, in some circles, is fed by falsehoods. In fact, independent studies have clearly shown that, over the full life cycle, greenhouse gas emissions from oil taken from oil sands are similar—if not lower—than those from several types of oil imported and used on a daily basis in the European Union.

However, the proposed measures for the implementation of the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive unfairly penalize crude oil from the oil sands while ignoring crude oil responsible for large quantities of greenhouse gases currently used in the European Union."

The reality, however, is that the EU has commissioned independent research, which found that tar sands fuels are on average 22% more carbon-intensive than conventional oil.  The Fuel Quality Directive includes an incentive for companies to clean up their act, as any company which can prove that its tar sands-derived fuel is lower carbon can present that evidence and get a lower number.

The Canadian government, on the other hand, is proposing an alternative that it knows would not survive a World Trade Organization legal challenge and thus entrench the status quo.

This may seem terribly clever, but doesn’t appear to be fooling too many Europeans. A decision on the Fuel Quality Directive is expected later this year.