Canada has threatened a trade war with the European Union over the bloc’s plan to label oil from Alberta’s tar sands as highly polluting, a FoIA investigation reported in The Guardian has revealed.
Letters sent to European commissioners by Canada’s ambassador to the EU and its oil minister and released under the FoIA declare: “Canada will not hesitate to defend its interests, including at the World Trade Organisation.”
Canada is afraid the EU plans will limit its ability to exploit its tar sands, the biggest fossil fuel reserve in the world after Saudi Arabia. Environmental groups have backed the EU’s stance, arguing that the exploitation of the tar sands would be catastrophic for the global climate as well as the water reserves of Alberta.
Darek Urbaniak of Friends of the Earth Europe, which obtained the documents, said: “These letters are further evidence of Canadian government and industry lobbying, which continuously undermines efforts to combat climate change. We find it unacceptable that the Canadian government now openly uses direct threats at the highest political levels to derail crucial EU climate legislation.”
The recent revelations follow news about secret high-level help given to Canada by the UK government. David Cameron met with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper and said the UK wanted “to work with Canada on finding a way forward”. Joe Oliver, Canada’s minister for natural resources, praised Britain for its support.
ICO defends FoIA law
Christopher Graham, UK’s Information Commissioner, has attacked recent “scaremongering” about FoIA legislation in last Sunday’s Observer. He said: “Whitehall insiders would have us believe, against all the evidence, that the act threatens good government because nobody dares write anything down anymore. But it’s nonsense to say that the act threatens to make public what really ought to remain secret for 30 years (shortly to be 20 years).” The commissioner also challenged claims that the FoIA poses a threat to Universities’ integrity of research and called for a “quiet, calm deliberation by the justice committee”.
Tony Blair funding attempts revealed under FoIA
Letters obtained under the FoIA reveal Tony Blair’s wooing of the International Development Secretary in failed efforts to secure public funding for his Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), a registered charity. The correspondence with Andrew Mitchell was revealed after FoIA applications by the Sunday Telegraph.
More than half a billion spent on public surveillance
FoIA requests submitted to 428 councils have revealed that £515m have been allocated to CCTV cameras’ installation and operation during the last four years, The Daily Mail and The Daily Express report.
Government officials have been meeting with energy companies in an effort to promote plans for new nuclear power stations, The Guardian reports.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act by the Department of Energy and Climate Change reveal minutes of a meeting between the department’s Office for Nuclear Development (OND) and EDF on 15 September about the handling of the company’s application for the first of the new nuclear stations at Somerset’s Hinkley Point.
Rob Edwards writes that although the documents were redacted, the text was so poorly blacked out that it can be read with ease. It outlines how EDF was briefed about the government’s regulatory justification of the nuclear programme, electricity market reform, the new fast-track planning regime, nuclear decommissioning, nuclear policy statements and developments in the European Union.
FoIA documents also show that on 7 September, OND passed the Nuclear Industry Association, which represents 260 companies, a list of 31 documents lodged in court by Greenpeace relating to its battle against the nuclear power programme.
The Guardian also mentions that the 15 September meeting shows OND was planning to send EDF documents about the government’s “defence grounds” about the Greenpeace case. Last month EDF was fined £1.3 m for spying on the environmental group in France.
The news comes after FoIA requests revealed yesterday that EDF has seconded several employees to Decc on a free and long term basis to assist the department with work on energy issues.
Number of super-rich rises
An FoIA investigation conducted by the BBC has revealed that the number of super-rich individuals paying tax in the UK have increased dramatically. Martin Rosenbaum reports that over a five year period up to 2010, the number of UK taxpayers with an annual taxable income over £10m, rose from 131 to 274.