Tar sands

Aerial view of Syncrude Aurora tar sands mine in the Boreal Forest north of Fort McMurray. © Greenpeace / Jiri Rezac

Greenpeace is calling on oil companies and the Canadian government to stop the tar sands and end the industrialization of a vast area of Indigenous territories, forests and wetlands in northern Alberta.

The tar sands are huge deposits of bitumen, a tar-like substance that’s turned into oil through complex and energy-intensive processes that cause widespread environmental damage. These processes pollute the Athabasca River, lace the air with toxins and convert farmland into wasteland. Large areas of the Boreal forest are clearcut to make way for development in the tar sands, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Greenpeace is also concerned with the social and health costs of the tar sands. First Nations communities in the tar sands report unusually high levels of rare cancers and autoimmune diseases. Their traditional way of life is threatened. Substance abuse, suicide, gambling and family violence have increased in the tar sands. Meanwhile, the thousands of workers brought in by oil companies face a housing crisis in northern Alberta.

Enbridge Inc.'s tar sands tanker pipeline proposal threatens to allow a 30 per cent expansion in tar sands development. Enbridge's tar sands pipeline would span 1,170 kilometres from Hardisty, Alberta to Kitimat, in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia. Over the past decade, Enbridge's own pipelines spilled an average of more than once a week. The pipeline would cross over 1,000 rivers and streams and the Rocky Mountains on the way to B.C.'s pristine coastline. The pipeline would bring more than 200 crude oil tankers through some of the world's most treacherous waters each year.

How Greenpeace works to stop the tar sands

  • Pressuring governments: The governments of Alberta and Canada actively promote tar sands development and ignore international commitments Canada has made to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Through direct action, we draw international attention to government climate crimes in the tar sands and demand change.
  • Educating shareholders: We meet with Canadian and international shareholders in oil companies and discuss the investment risks associated with the tar sands.
  • Working with impacted communities: We reach out to landowners and First Nations affected by the tar sands and stand in solidarity with them.

The latest updates

 

Exxon increasingly isolated in its determination to be a climate villain

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | May 25, 2016

Exxon’s management successfully defeated all of the shareholder resolutions on climate change at their Annual General Meeting today (though one resolution did pass that may lead to change in the longer term). The climate...

The tar sands now have their ceiling, we need to bring it down.

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | December 5, 2015

The night of Alberta's historic announcement of a 100 MT cap on tar sands emissions, I breathed a sigh of relief - the days of the endless expansion of the tar sands were over. The tar sands finally had their limit. The next morning...

#NoKXL: The Day the People Won

Blog entry by Mike Hudema | November 9, 2015

Nelson Mandela once said, “It’s always impossible until it’s done.” I never knew truly what that meant until Friday when the President of the United States echoed the words that so many of us had been saying for years and rejected...

People power is preventing the expansion of the tar sands

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | October 29, 2015 1 comment

People power beat Big Oil again this week when Shell announced that they were cancelling their Carmon Creek tar sands project .  Shell said the decision to cancel the project (and thus take a $2 billion hit to their bottom line) “...

How the Federal Parties Rate on Climate

Blog entry by Keith Stewart | October 7, 2015 2 comments

Short Version: What You Need to Know  Conservatives:  The Conservatives are at least clear: they don’t even pretend to care about climate change or that they will really do anything about it. Liberal:  The Liberal platform is...

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