Environment campaigners have reacted angrily to news that the European commission has dropped plans aimed at regulating the import of so called 'dirty fuels' into the EU.
A key aim of the EU's 2009 fuel quality directive was that it would label and penalise the production of crude oil sources categorised as the most polluting.
At the centre of the debate has been the issue of Canada's vast reserves of so called tar sands, oil rich deposits that were to have been designated as 20 per cent more polluting to produce than other conventional forms of crude oil.
"EU policymakers had hoped that placing an extra cost on the dirtiest fuels would incentivise European fuel refiners to source their crude supplies from less polluting producers"
EU policymakers had hoped that placing an extra cost on the dirtiest fuels would incentivise European fuel refiners to source their crude supplies from less polluting producers, which in turn would reduce the carbon intensity of transport fuels used in the EU by around six per cent by 2020.
However the proposals collapsed in 2012 after EU member states failed to reach an agreement on implementing the new rules, following intense lobbying by the Canadian and US governments and major oil producers.
Presenting new implementing rules earlier this week, EU climate action chief Connie Hedegaard recognised that tar sands were "more polluting", but with time running out and continued "resistance in some member states", the Danish EU commissioner essentially accepted defeat and ditched plans to introduce the 'highly polluting' import labelling regime.
"Tar sands oil is very bad news for Europe and the planet as a whole. We must do all we can to stop its importation" Catherine Bearder MEP
British ALDE group MEP, Catherine Bearder said she was furious with the commission's U-turn on tar sands. "I am absolutely furious with this. Tar sands oil is very bad news for Europe and the planet as a whole. We must do all we can to stop its importation", said Bearder.
Also reacting to the announcement, Nusa Urbanci of Brussels-based campaign group Transport & Environment said, "After a five-year siege by Canadian officials and industry lobbyists, the EU is letting oil corporations off the hook."
"That is not just a tragedy for the climate; excusing the oil industry from carbon reduction efforts is unfair, inefficient and costly as well."
Friends of the Earth Europe also criticised the announcement, adding that pressure to conclude extensive trade agreements between the EU and both Canada and the US had also had a bearing on watering down the implementing proposals.
"The commission has recognised the highly polluting nature of tar sands but is going to let this climate killer be used by European oil companies with no penalty at all", said the group's extractive industries spokesman, Colin Roche.
"The commission has clearly seen the problem but, under heavy pressure from the oil industry and the Canadian and US government, chosen not to act on it. Clearly the commission has sold out Europe's climate policy by putting the trade talks ahead of the protection of the planet."