Baker targeted by constituents for blocking climate action

‘Tar Monster’ roams Lewes as protesters urge Baker to support EU Fuel Quality Directive

Friday 25th November – For immediate release

On Saturday 26th November, a giant Tar Monster, produced by Friends of the Earth, the UK Tar Sands Network and South Coast Climate Camp, roamed the streets of Lewes. The monster highlighted the role of local MP Norman Baker in opposing action to cut the use of tar sands oil, the world’s most polluting transport fuel [1].

“We are aware that the Canadian tar sands industry is an ecological monster [2]. Fuel derived from tar sands comes at a very high price to the environment, to communities that live near extraction, and to the global climate,” said Lewes constituent Mark Mansbridge. “Gladly, the EU has moved towards labelling tar sands as more polluting than conventional oil [3]. You think this would be a welcome move for Baker, a self-styled environmentalist, however we are instead seeing him align with the Canadian government to derail the EU legislation.”

The Canadian government has been engaged in a mammoth lobbying offensive [4] against the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) for over two years, and has now openly vowed war [5] on the legislation, claiming that it threatens future export markets for global unconventional oil, and unfairly discriminates against the tar sands. In recent months, as the decision now goes to EU member states, the UK government has escalated its support of the Canadian position, going so far as to lobby other EU states to reject the inclusion of tar sands in the FQD [6]. As minister responsible for the UK position [7], Norman Baker has been the focus of intensive campaigning on this issue by NGOs and climate campaigners for recent months [8].

“A coalition of international NGOs, community groups and climate campaigners have been urging Baker to stop blocking the inclusion of a higher tar sands value,” commented UK Tar Sands Network campaigner Suzanne Dhaliwal. “Baker insists he is trying to help the environment [9], arguing that the proposed legislation singles out tar sands and should be delayed until more data is available about other fuel sources. But this is a bogus argument, inherited from the Canadian government. The Commission’s current proposal has already given values to other unconventional fuel sources, and contains a clause to include more fuel types as the science becomes available. Baker needs to realise that there is no time to delay – this legislation needs to come into effect as soon as possible.”

Now the pressure to stop caving in to the interests of the Canadian tar sands industry is coming closer to home. Earlier this week the local Lush store-front displayed an image of Norman Baker dripping in tar sands oil [10]. “Norman Baker was right behind setting up Transition Town Lewes and supporting climate activists.” said Mansbridge. “We have felt betrayed by Norman’s position on the Fuel Quality Directive. If he continues to call for tar sands to not be labelled as highly polluting he will be putting the interests of the Canadian tar sands industry and corporations ahead of his constituents, who want affirmative action on climate change.”

Lewes’ Green Party has expressed concern that Norman Baker is trying to prevent the implementation of the transport legislation given his previous commitment to the environment [11]. “We need our government to be taking decisive action to reduce emissions from fuels. The Fuel Quality Directive will move industry towards a green economy to provide us with jobs we can be proud of and renewable energy for future generations,” said councillor Susan Murray. “Tar sands are a highly polluting source of carbon-based fuel and if production is encouraged by unimpeded access to European markets then the fight against irreversible climate change is as good as lost [12].”


Photos up here – High res images available upon request

Notes for editors:
[1] Minister for Transport, Norman Baker, stated the UK government will oppose an inclusion of a tar sands value.
[2] See
[3] The Fuel Quality Directive aims to cut carbon emissions from transport by 6% by 2020. The directive includes values for a range of transport fuels including shale oil.
[4] See ‘Canada’s dirty lobby diary – Undermining the EU Fuel Quality Directive’ released by Friends of the Earth Europe
[5] The Minister has vowed to fight the EUs’ recent decision
[7] Norman Baker is Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Transport.
[8] e.g. from the Co-operative Bank
[10] Norman Baker, MP: TARNISHED- Blowing his chance to keep dirty tar sands oil out of Europe
[11] In opposition, Norman Baker sponsored a Parliamentary Early Day Motion stating that tar sands cause “deforestation and pollution which threatens the lives and livelihoods of indigenous communities” and “that the continued expansion of tar sands extraction is incompatible with the emissions reductions needed to avoid catastrophic climate change” – see
[12] NASA Scientist James Hansen has said that irreversible climate change is inevitable if all the oil in Canada’s tar sands is burned









Lewes stops the tar monster in its tracks!

The EU is currently in the process of stopping tar sands fuel coming into Europe. The EU wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions from transport fuels by 6% by 2020. This proposal would effectively be a huge stumbling block for future plans to import tar sands oil into Europe.

But this vital action on climate change is being blocked by the UK government. Lewes MP Norman Baker, as Transport Minister, is responsible for the UK’s position. He is opposing EU action on tar sands oil. Only last year Mr Baker had called for a stop to the extraction because of the huge climate impact of tar sands

It’s time to show Norman Baker that people in his constituency want him to do the right thing for the environment. Lush have got the ball rolling with thier amazing window display of Norman Baker being tarred. People and Planet have also set up online action for you to sign, tweet and share.

Join us as we stop the Tar Monster in its tracks!

On Saturday 26th November the people of Lewes will be getting a visit from an oily tar monster. The monster will be wandering the streets of Lewes to send a clear message to local MP Norman Baker to stop caving to Canadian lobbying efforts and make a commitment to effective climate policy.

Join us @10am outside the WHSmith on the main high street in Lewes. Invite people people along!

Email for more information

The UK Tar Sands Network will be joined by South Coast Climate Camp, the Lewes District Green Party and Friends of the Earth Lewes

Transition Heathrow becomes a Tar-Free community!

Guest Blog from Transition Heathrow

Transition Heathrow is delighted at being named the first Tar-Free community in the UK. At our recent Resistance Jam weekend, Sue and Emily from the UK Tar Sands Network visited Grow Heathrow to unveil a new banner they had prepared for us and to explain their new initiative.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the capitalist system around us has gone crazy. Our total dependence on oil is socially self-destructing, and the only way our economy can sustain itself is by wrecking everything in its path in a quest for the last remaining dregs of unexploited oil reserves. The environmentally catastrophic Tar Sands extraction in Alberta is the foremost example of this.

Across the world communities are starting to stand up to illegitimate governments and corporations that continue to put profits before people. We need to join the dots between communities under threat. The forces trying to destroy communities around Heathrow airport are the same as those bringing destruction to Alberta. We at Transition Heathrow stand in solidarity with the indigenous communities who face losing their livelihoods, traditions and history through the complete destruction of their local environment.

We felt incredibly honoured when First Nations activists from Alberta chose to visit Transition Heathrow earlier this year, as part of the No Tar Sands UK tour. An evening of discussion and shared stories brought hope and inspiration to our separate struggles. Working together and supporting each other can only help communities under threat defend themselves.

Becoming a Tar-Free Town means making a commitment to only using ethical sources of energy. By themselves, our actions may not have much impact, but by acting together we can drive the Tar Sands out of our towns and out of the UK, and create a future where our energy needs are met without the rights of indigenous communities being trampled on.