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Europe finalizes oil sands ban; Gordon Campbell lobbies against it

Just days before the European Commission moved forward with legislation to block crude oil imports from Alberta's oil sands, former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell spoke out against it.

"The oil sands have the same kind of impacts as many other sources of energy globally," Campbell told BBC News during a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. "To pick out one doesn't answer the problem."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper named the ex-Liberal Party of B.C. Premier high commissioner to the United Kingdom last August.

It's considered one of Canada's most prestigious diplomatic postings.

Besides promoting ongoing Canada-Europe free trade negotiations, Campbell became one of the top Canadian diplomats lobbying against the EU's pending clean fuel legislation.

That legislation, known as the Fuel Quality Directive, would encourage fuel suppliers to avoid importing oil from high-carbon sources such as Alberta's oil sands.

Vigorous opposition from the Alberta and Canadian governments (as well as the European oil industry) nearly succeeded last year in striking out any clauses targeting Canadian oil.

But the European Commission decided to stand firm on Tuesday, backing measures which declare that transportation fuel produced from the oil sands has one of the sector's highest carbon footprints. European Union member states will vote on that proposal in four to six weeks.

British green advocacy group the Co-operative applauded policymakers for "standing up for cleaner fuels and a low carbon future."

"Europe is setting a precedent for the rest of the world to follow," Co-operative campaigner Paul Monaghan told UKPA.

That sort of precedent is exactly what Alberta's oil industry, which actually exports very little crude oil to Europe, and its political supporters fear.

In Scotland, former Premier Campbell insisted that Canada is making progress towards its climate change goals, despite a recent report from federal environment commissioner Scott Vaughan suggesting exactly the opposite.

"We're trying to work with partners in the U.S., the EU and around the world to make sure we meet our [climate] obligations," Campbell said.

"But we're clear about the fact that everyone is demanding more energy."

Geoff Dembicki reports on energy and climate issues for The Tyee.

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