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UK government supports controversial and polluting Canadian tar sands

The UK has been secretly supporting Canada in it’s campaign against EU penalties imposed on its highly polluting tar sands fuel, The Guardian has revealed.

A Freedom of Information investigation shows that since September at least 15 high-level meetings have taken place with David Cameron reassuring his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper that his government wants “to work with Canada in finding a way forward”.

The Guardian reports Canada’s tar sands are the second largest reserve of carbon in the world after Saudi Arabia, although the extraction of oil from the ground is far more polluting than conventional oil drilling, causing much greater greenhouse gas emissions.

The revelations, come as a blow to Cameron who claimed to lead the “greenest government ever” and ahead of new round of global negotiations on tackling climate change in South Africa’s Durban beginning today.

The UK government has been lobbied by Shell and BP, which both have major tar sands projects in Alberta, and opened a new consulate in the province to “support British commercial interests”.

Certain governmental departments are extremely secretive about their meetings with the multinational oil companies. The Department for Transport has released only two heavily redacted presentations made to it by Shell. It has refused to disclose six other relevant documents on the grounds of commercial confidentiality, as did the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). BP has also been meeting with ministers.

The documents were released under Environmental Information Regulations by Co-operative, a UK mutual business group that targets tar sands as part of its climate change campaign.

Colin Baines, Co-operative’s toxic fuels campaign manager, said: “It is very disappointing that the UK government is supporting Canada’s efforts and we hope it has a rethink and puts tackling climate change ahead of Canada’s trade interests when it comes to vote on the European commission’s commonsense proposal.”

MoD losses thousands of personal files

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act expose the Ministry of Defence as the worst Whitehall department when it comes to safeguarding personal details, despite the fact its soldiers might be an obvious target for terrorists. The Sunday Times revealed the MoD has lost personnel files 64 times in the past three years. One file lost in February last year contained the details of 1,700 personnel while in July of the same year, the loss of a CD from secure government premises affected more than 2,300 people.

World-class research lab working under capacity

The government might have spent £400 million on building the Isis neutron source, a world-class laboratory in Oxfordshire, but a FoIA request submitted by the Campaign for Science and Engineering (Case) revealed it’s running at only two-thirds capacity. The Guardian reports the lab has been forced into part-time dormancy since the government cut the science budget and research funders allocated too little money to pay the full operating costs of the facility.

More than18m bus journeys lost because of cuts

An FoIA request by the Campaign for Better Transport has revealed 18.4 million bus journeys have been lost across England after £36 million cuts in subsidies. The Sunday Mirror reports that since April 1, 114 services have been axed or withdrawn in the evenings or at weekends.

Philip Morris drops FoIA requests about university’s research programme

Philip Morris International has quietly dropped its Freedom of Information request to access interviews data held by Stirling University as part of its research into children’s attitudes to smoking. The Independent reports that the company, who among other brands produces Marlboro, had to respond to the university’s refusal to publish the interviews within 40 working days but failed to respond within the required deadline.

Alcohol industry reps might be lobbying the government

Figures released under The Freedom of Information Act reveal ministers and civil servants in charge of alcohol policy have been meeting at least 85 times with representatives from the drinks industry, prompting allegations of “collusions”, the Sunday Times reports.

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