Wednesday 26th October 2016                 Change text size:

The UK is secretly jeopardising its climate change measures

The UK is secretly jeopardising its climate change measures

Alex Blackburne explains how the UK’s backing of Canada’s oil sands project is effectively cancelling out all the positive measures we are taking in the fight against global warming.

By supporting a Canadian oil sands project, the UK is in danger of negatively affecting the global fight against climate change.

Oil Sands, or tar sands, are a mixture of bitumen, oil, sand, water and clay, and are placed in a group of energy sources called ‘unconventionals’. The Canadian sands are the second largest in the world, behind Saudi Arabia’s.

They are extremely harmful to the environment – in particular to the land, air and water. They also use up vast amounts of fossil fuels because of the extraction techniques used in getting the oil out.

It was announced a few days ago that the UK had been giving “secret support” to Canada’s harmful oil sands project.

Global warming expert, Bill McKibben, made the point in The Guardian, that when oil was discovered in the Middle East, the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ were mere glints in humanity’s eye.

Extracting oil from the Canadian sands is a different story. “We’ve taken 3% of the oil from the sands”, he writes.

“We’re still at the start. If, knowing what we now know about climate change, we just keep going, then we’re idiots.”

McKibben has it spot on. He’s hit the nail on the head.

A report by WWF-UK and The Co-operative Bank concluded that the use of unconventionals was increasingly carbon intensive.

“Their increasing exploitation is a warning sign that the industry is ‘recarbonising’ at a time when we need to urgently tackle climate change“, it says.

“Canada is in a position where it risks damaging its physical environment and international reputation, as well as contributing to global climate change, in order to supply the US with oil.”

The revealing of the UK’s support of Canada over its oil sands project comes less than a week ahead of the European Commission’s fuel quality talks, due to take place this Friday.

“In their work around the Fuel Quality Directive, the UK government’s position has been exposed as one of self-interest rather than tackling climate change”, said Anthony Field, senior campaigns officer at WWF-UK.

“It is pure fiction that Canada has been singled out in the EU Commission’s proposals. In fact the Commission’s proposal goes well beyond fuel from Canada to cover all unconventional fuel regardless of their source.

“We want to see the UK government supporting the Commission’s proposals for cutting greenhouse gasses from transport by 6% by 2020.”

It’s imperative that the continued extraction of oil in this way is stopped. Not only is it immediately harmful to the environment, but it nullifies the world’s fight against climate change because of the amount of energy used in extraction.

Investment in companies that don’t use such measures is the key for a sustainable future. We need to boost the funding and support to ethical companies helping them grow and leave the unethical companies out in the cold. To find out more about investing, ask your financial adviser, if you have one, or complete our online form and we’ll connect you with a specialist ethical adviser.

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