Don't make Canada a climate criminal

Feature Story - 2009-12-04
Just three days before the UN Copenhagen climate change summit opens, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits Beijing. We thought we’d take the opportunity to tell him what we think of his criminal decision to mine tar sands, one of the most destructive ways to kill the climate and the environment.

Greenpeace climate campaigner Liu Shuang stands outside the Canadian embassy in Beijing with two polar bears to protest against Canada's mining of its tar sands.

Greenpeace China climate and energy campaigner Liu Shuang and two polar bears headed over to the Canadian embassy in Beijing to deliver a letter to Mr. Harper.

Here's the letter (pdf).

Don't have time to read the whole letter? Here are the juiciest bits:

"Canada is becoming a symbol of everything that stands in the way of urgent action on climate change."

"Tar sands revenue and oil industry lobbying have seriously undermined Canada's international reputation."

"Prime Minister Harper, we need a genuinely clean energy revolution, one in which Canada plays the leadership role it is supposed to play. We urge you to rise to this challenge. The time is now."

What are the tar sands?

Tar sands are a mixture of sand, clay, and a very heavy crude oil called bitumen.

To get the oil out of the ground, trees are cut down, the surface layer is strip-mined, and the underlying mixture is heated with steam.

What's so bad about the tar sands?

It takes immense quantities of water, and huge amounts of dirty energy to create the steam needed to get oil out of tar sands, and processing the bitumen requires the use of even more dirty energy.

The air is polluted with nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide, water is contaminated with toxic chemicals, and millions of hectares of wilderness are being destroyed.

How much do they contribute to Canada's greenhouse gas emissions?

Oil from the tar sands produces five times as many greenhouse gas emissions as conventional oil.

It is estimated that by 2011, annual greenhouse gas emissions from the tar sands plants alone will be over 80 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent - a greater quantity of emissions than that produced by all of Canada's passenger cars today.

The tar barons have held the nation to ransom

British environmentalist George Monbiot summed it up aptly in his latest Guardian newspaper column, headlined: "Canada's image lies in tatters. It is now to climate what Japan is to whaling."

"The tar barons have held the nation to ransom," writes Mr Monbiot. "This thuggish petro-state is today the greatest obstacle to a deal in Copenhagen."

We will leave you with another photo from our action this morning.

Here Liu Shuang discusses with embassy security guards the best way to deliver the letter to Mr. Harper.

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