Despite the urgency of the Durban climate talks, industry interests have largely undercut global progress on lowering greenhouse gases. One example is the news that the United Kingdom has been quietly working to prevent a European Union climate penalty on Canadian tar sands oil. Throughout Europe’s negotiations, the U.K. government has been in close contact with oil companies Shell and BP:
At least 15 high-level meetings and frequent communications have taken place since September, with David Cameron discussing the issue with his counterpart Stephen Harper during his visit to Canada, and stating privately that the UK wanted “to work with Canada on finding a way forward”, according to documents released under freedom of information laws.
As Europe grapples with cutting greenhouse gases, U.S. activists are fighting the development of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. Tar sands produce an even dirtier form of oil than conventional crude, with 23 percent higher greenhouse pollution, and NASA scientist James Hansen says development would mean “game over for the climate.”
The Guardian’s revelation about lobbying in the U.K. simply highlights how special interests have swayed decision-makers both domestically and abroad. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has lobbied seven state governments to approve the project. And in Canada, TransCanada lobbyists have met with Canadian officials at least 56 times since May.
President Obama’s decision regarding Keystone XL, as well as the European vote on tar sands penalties this Friday, present opportunities for nations to finally put public interest ahead of Big Oil’s gains.