A British group that opposes the tar sands is warning Prime Minister David Cameron, who will visit Parliament Hill on Thursday, that it does not serve him well to get too close to his canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper.
In a strongly worded release, the UK Tar Sands Network demands that the "British government stop defending Canada's criminal record on climate change."
"We would just like to say that David Cameron needs to look at how far he is sidling up to Canada in terms of pushing tar sands oil at a time when people in Europe and the UK are opposed to tar sands extraction," Gemma Long, a campaigner with the group, said in a telephone interview from Britain.
She said Britain is one of the few countries that is trying to stop the Fuel Quality Directive that is before the European Union. It aims to tighten the environmental standards for transport fuels coming to the continent.
"We're seeing that Canada is pushing to stop this legislation from going ahead because it sees it as a threat to oil sands development," she said. "So we see that Canada's interest to push tar sands oil to global markets is interfering with international legislation to help mitigate climate change."
Canada's oil sands industry counters that it is providing a secure source of energy while reducing its impact on the environment and providing economic benefits to society. "Our industry understands Canadians' concerns and is working with new techniques and technologies to reduce our environmental impact," the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says on its website.
Several advocates also argue that the tar-sands oil is more "ethical" than oil from places like Saudi Arabia, which discriminate against women.
At the moment, Europe does not rely on the tar sands for oil. But that could change if the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport the bitumen extracted from the sands to the Gulf of Mexico for processing, said Ms. Long. From there it could be shipped around the world.
"The emissions from the tar sands will have a global impact on climate change initiatives that affect everyone," she said. "Instead of moving away to renewable energy paradigm, the Canadian government is keeping the world stuck, not only in oil but the dirtiest form of oil."
The union that represents Alberta oil-sands workers is on the Hill Thursday pressing MPs to oppose the Keystone pipeline. And aboriginal and other advocacy groups plan to rally against the oil sands with a sit-in in Ottawa on Monday.