In what was a victory for campaign groups working on the issue, the Commission released a proposal in October 2011 that included a higher default greenhouse gas value for tar sands. But when Member States voted on this proposal in February 2012, there was a stalemate, which stopped the proposal from moving forward into law.
The Commission was pressured by industry and unsupportive Member States to produce an impact assessment, investigating the concerns that this methodology would create an administrative burden for EU companies and impact negatively on the industry. But the impact assessment showed that the industry’s concerns can’t be verified.
We are now waiting for the Commission to release another proposal, due in October 2013. Since the February 2012 vote, lobbying from the oil industry, the Canadian government, and some EU member states such as the UK, has been focused on putting pressure on the Commission to come up with a weaker proposal that does not distinguish tar sands fuel from conventional fuel.
Campaign groups, meanwhile, have been working hard to ensure it will still include the label for tar sands as a highly-polluting fuel. If the proposal is delayed much further, beyond the election of a new EU Parliament and appointment of new Commissioners in early 2014, it is possible that the tar sands label will not be pursued by the Commission.
Once the proposal is released, Member States will need to come up with their position. They can support, oppose or abstain, and each country has a different number of votes based on its population. The countries with the biggest proportion of votes are the UK, Germany and France.