The Fuel Quality Directive is a vital piece of EU climate legislation. It sets a target for reducing emissions from transport fuels by 6% between 2010 and 2020.
But it has not been implemented, despite the urgent need to reduce global emissions and avoid catastrophic climate change.
To meet the target, the European Climate Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, proposed to label oil imports according to the source (feedstock) from which they are extracted and rate each different sources by the greenhouse gas emissions they cause. This would discourage oil importers from importing the types of oil which cause the most emissions, such as tar sands.
Tar sands oil is the most polluting fossil fuel in commercial production today. It is currently only exploited on a large scale in Canada
The process of converting tar sands into fuel releases three to five times the greenhouse gas emissions of conventional oil – due to the vast amounts of energy required in the process.
The extraction of tar sands oil also results in devastating land use change, destroying natural boreal forests and peatlands, and impacting heavily on biodiversity and indigenous communities. Toxic tailing ponds regularly leak and pollute the freshwater sources on which local communities depend. Canadian First Nation communities are especially suffering from severe impacts on their health.
The Fuel Quality Directive was due to be implemented in 2010. But due to intense lobby pressure by the oil industry and the Canadian government it has still not entered into force. As long as the Fuel Quality Directive is not implemented the threat of tar sands oil coming to Europe remains.
And time is running out: While only small amounts of tar sands oil have been exported to Europe so far, the completion of a pipeline leading to the US gulf coast could see an enormous rise in tar sands oil imports into Europe in 2014.
That’s why Commission President Barroso must implement the Fuel Quality Directive now and ensure that the most polluting fuels don’t have access to the European market. This would reduce the incentive to invest in them and help to keep them in the ground forever.
Specifically the Fuel Quality Directive implementation should contain:
The Fuel Quality Directive is the only piece of European climate legislation that has not been implemented yet. It’s high time to pass a strong Fuel Quality Directive that closes Europe’s door to the world’s most destructive fossil fuels.