Another day, another lobbying scandal to embarrass the government…
Following on from yesterday’s lobbying expose – video footage which showed PR firm Bell Pottinger boasting about their influence over Cameron and Osbourne in the corridors of power – a batch of documents have been released which highlight how the Canadian oil lobby is putting pressure on the British government to represent its economic interests in the EU.
The relationship between dirty Canadian tar sands oil and the UK has previously been uncovered (see Greenpeace and The Guardian). The UK is being used by the Canadian oil lobby to delay a key proposal to the EU Fuel Quality Directive (FQD), which aims to prevent environmentally catastrophic tar sands oil flooding the European markets. The Canadians are desperate to stop this proposal as it will set a global precedent which could effect existing and future markets for their oil exports.
The rub is that the oil lobby are barefaced lying to UK officials who seem happy to accept misinformation and continue to back Canadian assertions that any regulation distinguishing tar sands oil from other forms of crude is arbitrary, un-scientific, and unworkable. Highlighting this is a UK Foreign Office report discussing a meeting with Canadian lobbyist Sushma Gera in which the tar sands advocates clearly state that similar legislation to the FQD proposal completely failed in the US. This is simply untrue, and when US officials discovered that their successful Low Carbon Fuel Standard was being slandered by the oil lobby, they wrote directly to the EU commission in support of the FQD proposal, and explained exactly how they had been misrepresented by Geera.
The fact that the MP in charge of the UK position on tar sands in Europe, Lib Dem Norman Baker, continues to defend Canadian interests outright despite a swathe of lobbying revelations is appalling. MEP, spokesman for the environment, and fellow Lib Dem Chris Davies has denounced Baker and the UK government for being ‘extraordinarily naïve’ over this issue. It is clear that political discontent on this issue is growing inside the coalition, as well as beyond it.
Political squabbling can only be a good thing in the run up to the crucial EU vote on the FQD proposal in January. We need as many provocateurs as possible holding this government to public account over its promises of green governance and transparency. Because if the UK becomes the political gateway to Europe for tar sands oil under a regime of back-room trickery, then not only the British government, but those with a voice to speak out will have also failed and played a part in detonating the next great carbon bomb.