|Anti Keystone XL protesters await John Kerry’s arrival.|
By Lucy Patterson
“US: No KXL; EU: No Tar Sands” was the simple message on a banner at yesterday’s anti-tar sands demonstration outside Lancaster House in central London. At 8am, over sixty of protesters from at least fourteen different national and international organisations gathered in the rain to greet US Secretary of State John Kerry as he arrived at a meeting with other G8 representatives ahead of the summit this summer, in the first anti-Keystone XL protest towards a US politician outside of the country.
The message to Kerry, who will soon decide whether or not to approve the infamous Keystone Pipeline, was that this isn’t just a decision that will destroy communities, disrupt the local environment and risk the safety and wellbeing of all those living along the pipeline route (never mind that there have been over a dozen recorded pipeline spills in recent weeks). It’s not just a decision that will signal US approval of the most destructive industrial project this planet has ever seen (never mind the displacement of local First Nation communities in Canada, mass deforestation and the irreversible annihilation of millions of square miles of Alberta’s stunning countryside).
Never mind all these reasons: US approval of the Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline would add considerable momentum to what some campaigners have dubbed ‘the Apocalypse project’. The extraction and consumption of tar sands oil produces three to four times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil extraction. If the project is allowed to continue as planned, runaway climate change will be inevitable. If John Kerry approves the KXL plans, he will effectively be giving the green light to markets around the world to invest in the tar sands; he will be condoning the continued extraction and consumption of fossil fuels, and will be further delaying US action on climate change. In short, and at the risk of sounding alarmist, this could essentially mean putting the continuation of human existence at risk.
|Several groups had turned up to voice their opposition against tar sands and Keystone XL.|
Instead, by rejecting the KXL plans, the US would send out a different message – that a sustainable, just future is possible; that the interests of the people should take priority over the short-term interests of oil companies; that the US acknowledges its responsibility to cut its carbon emissions now, and to make reductions in line with the science and in line with equity. This is a message that could have repercussions across the world – particularly here in Europe, where, this October, the EU is likely to decide on the implementation of the Fuel Quality Directive – a new piece of legislation that could keep the dirtiest fossil fuels (crucially, tar sands oil), out of Europe.
The UK Tar Sands Network, as one of the key organisations coordinating the action, is particularly concerned with raising awareness about the benefits of the FQD. From the network, Ruthi Brandt commented: “People in London are here today to stand with those resisting tar sands expansion in Alberta and pipelines in the US. The Keystone XL will affect us too, because the pipeline is intended for export. The reality of tar sands oil coming to the UK is not far off, with a refinery in Pembrokeshire lined up by Valero to bring imports of tar sands from the Gulf of Mexico. So we’re here to let John Kerry know that we don’t want this dirty oil. In the EU we are pushing for legislation to make sure that tar sands imports are strongly discouraged due to their high emissions. We hope other countries will follow suit. We need to leave the tar sands in the ground, and make the transition to sustainable transport fuels that don’t devastate local communities and cost the Earth.”
Yesterday’s action outside Lancaster House was organized and attended by representatives from international organisations as well as local groups, students and youth groups as well as older campaigners, British and European activists as well as representatives of Texan and Gulf Coast communities opposed to the pipeline. The gathering of people from different generations, different countries, and each with different concerns regarding the tar sands project, exemplified that though the immediate consequences of the KXL pipeline will be local, the long-term consequences will be global and will continue for generations. As such, this may be a national fight but it must be matched with international solidarity.
The protest was organised and supported by:
350.org, Campaign Against Climate Change, Climate Rush, The Climate and Health Council, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Healthy Planet UK, Occupy London: Energy, Equity and Environment group, Push Europe, Pembrokeshire Friends of the Earth, People & Planet, TEJAS (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services), UK Tar Sands Network, UKYCC, World Development Movement.
Lucy is the European Campaigns Liaison for the UK Youth Climate Coalition and Network Developer for Push Europe. You can tweet her at: @PixiePatJack