Mobilising the People and Planet student network to lobby the UK Government and MEPs to secure the ‘YES’ vote for the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive.

Early in 2013 the European Union will decide whether to let dirty tar sands oil into Europe. The Fuel Quality Directive(FQD) legislation gives Europe a major opportunity to strike a blow to the expansion of Canada’s dirty oil industry.

People & Planet helped shift the UK’s last FQD vote from ‘NO’ to an abstention in 2011. Now we aim to mobilise our student network to lobby the UK Government and MEPs to secure the ‘YES’ vote so desperately needed. We will organise film screenings, creative stunts, an e-action and a Dirty Oil Lobby Day to ensure dirty oil stays out of Europe!

Climate change is already hitting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities and putting lives at risk across the globe. NASA’s chief scientist Jim Hansen has said repeatedly that extracting the available oil in Canada’s tar sands would lead to ‘game over’ for the climate.

This was reinforced last year when the EU classified Canadian tar sands oil as 23% more carbon intensive than conventional oil as part of its Fuel Quality Directive plans for greening Europe’s transport fuel. Unfortunately, strong lobbying from the Canadian government and the oil industry has led to repeated delays and stalling tactics to this key piece of legislation.

Getting a strong EU Fuel Quality Directive would considerably slow the pace of the tar sands industry’s expansion in Canada and would send a strong market signal to oil companies around the world that dirty fossil fuels are a risky investment – both for their shareholders and the planet.

People & Planet aims:

  • To provide 20 student groups & student unions with direct training, resources & support to organise a Taking on Tarmageddon film screening in their learning institution.
  • To mobilise at least 10 groups to organise Dirty Oil stunts and/or lobby their MPs/MEPs about the EU Fuel Quality directive.
  • To get at least 1,000 young people to sign the Tar Sands-Free Europe petition or e-action. And secure at least 10,000 signatures through partnerships with other organisations.


Find out more and help keep Europe Tar Sands-Free



People & Planet’s Tar Sands-Free Europe project aims to mobilise student action around the EU Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) and, ultimately, to ensure the UK Government votes yes to labelling oil from tar sands as heavily polluting. This simple action would help to keep tar sands oil, some of the most carbon intensive oil in the world, out of Europe and shut off an important market for the Canadian tar sands industry.


Since 2012 People & Planet has been busy training students on the issues of tar sands and the FQD, providing activist support and making campaign resources available to our network of student groups. This capacity-building element of the project has proven to be the most successful, with over 23 student groups around the country enthusiastically engaging with the range of project aims and objectives.


The release of APE-funded documentary, Taking on Tarmageddon, sparked a series of 22 screenings in universities, at events and festivals around the country. We provided students with a ready-made Screening in a Box DVD pack and also delivered 8 workshops or talks about Tar Sands-Free Europe to accompany the film. Students organised petition signing after their screenings to tie the film back into the campaign for a yes vote on the FQD. On average students rated the film 9/10 at its Summer Gathering launch, and we also held a packed screening with a director Q&A at our national conference Shared Planet in November.


Despite the unexpected delays in the scheduled EU member vote on the Fuel Quality Directive (now pushed back to October 2013), we have had to create a number of opportunities to maintain and increase public engagement around the FQD. In November 2012, we sent a strong message to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg when our annual conference was held near his Sheffield Hallam constituency.  Over 200 students took part in a mass action calling on Nick Clegg to keep his promises to students and the environment by voting yes to the FQD. A viral video of the action was launched shortly afterwards to accompany an e-action to key government decision-makers.


Within two weeks 277 students had written to Clegg and Norman Baker, prompting the Department for Transport (DfT) to invite People & Planet in to discuss our demands on the FQD. The intelligence gathered from this meeting proved strategically helpful for the wider coalition of groups working on this issue.  We generated further interest in the campaign through regular email updates to our fast-growing Tar Sands-Free Europe list and various social media platforms. Working with 350.org, UK Tar Sands Network and in solidarity with communities affected by tar sands oil pipelines, we launched a joint FQD online petition to coincide with a 50,000 strong rally on the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington. The petition gathered over 4,500 signatures and was handed in person by affected community members to Nick Clegg’s office in late March.


We also co-produced a report ‘The Lowdown on Dirty Oil Lobbying’ with UK Tar Sands Network which frames the campaign for the FQD as a struggle against corporate power and behind-the-scenes political influence by the Canadian government. This resource, along with action guides specifically produced for students on how to lobby their MP and MEPs, get media attention and organise creative, non-violent direct action will continue to provide support to students for taking action going forwards.


Although we did not have a confirmed date for the EU vote to mobilise around, the level of interest in the Tar Sands-Free campaign has translated into groups autonomously organising stunts to target various organisations on their campus with links to the industry. At least six different universities have organised actions that have ranged from banner drops, to boycotts and interventions at careers fairs. One particularly active group at University of East Anglia has staged a series of actions systematically targeting institutions that fund tar sands extraction. They have recently passed a motion through their union which they are now looking to share and develop with other groups in the network. Furthermore, we have built good links with groups in or near key constituencies such as Sussex University (near Norman Baker’s Lewes constituency) and Sheffield Hallam University. Both groups are keen to lobbying their MPs on tar sands nearer to the vote.


Looking to the future, People & Planet has worked closely alongside UK Tar Sands Network to build a coalition around the FQD. One clear legacy of this project is that there is now an informed and skilled network of student activists around the UK ready to work with the growing coalition of groups leading work  to keep tar sands out of Europe. As soon as the date of the final vote is announced, you can expect to see the People & Planet network spring into action and intervening at key moments until then.




People & Planet is delighted to receive a grant from APE to further our student-led campaign to keep tar sands out of Europe for good. It really wouldn’t have been possible without this support, so thank you to all the Trustees for their continued faith in our ability to deliver high impact, youth-led campaigns!

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