* 17 EU lawmakers pressure climate commissioner on oil sands
* Greek MEP demands issue raised in EU-Canada trade talks
BRUSSELS, April 22 (Reuters) - European parliamentarians are raising the pressure on the Canadian oil sands industry, which they accuse of destroying forests and polluting the air and waterways.
Seventeen members of the European Parliament wrote to European climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard on Tuesday, urging her to maintain barriers to oil sands in draft EU standards to promote greener fuels.
“The extraction and refining of tar sand oil is around three times more carbon intensive than conventional oil,” they said in the letter.
Canada has already warned the EU that its draft standards are too unwieldy and will harm the market for its oil sands -- tar-like oil that is trapped in sediment and forms the world’s second-largest proven crude reserves after Saudi Arabia.
Seperately, Greek lawmaker Kriton Arsenis asked EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, this week to link trade cooperation with Canada to its climate strategy and its use of oil sands.
“It would be unacceptable not to place the environmental consequences of tar sands oil extraction on the negotiating table,” Arsenis said in a statement. “This activity is the reason why Canada doesn’t honour its international commitments on climate change.”
The issue has already led to pressure on oil companies to withdraw from the sector. [ID:nLDE63E1SY]
Despite the pressure from environmentalists, the EU appears to be yielding to Canadian demands it remove possible barriers to oil sands to avoid further damage to trade ties.
Canada’s EU envoy, Ross Hornby, has written to EU climate officials warning them that the EU’s “fuel quality directive” could be seen as a trade barrier. [ID:nLDE62N2I4]
In his letter, Ross cited research showing oil sands’ carbon footprint was only 5-15 percent higher than most crude imports consumed in the United States.
“A separate category for oil sands, therefore, is not science-based and would amount to unjustifiable discrimination against the oil sands,” he wrote to Karl Falkenberg, head of the European Commission’s environment department.
Recent draft EU papers on fuel standards, seen by Reuters, drop all reference to Canadian oil sands or tar sands, in sharp contrast with drafts from last year.
Trade relations are already strained after the European Union banned imports of seal products last July on animal welfare grounds, a move Canada is challenging at the World Trade Organisation.
Reporting by Pete Harrison
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.