The UK Tar Sands Network aims to stop the world’s most destructive fossil fuel project

A year ago almost no-one in the UK had heard of Canada’s tar sands. The UK Tar Sands Network has been instrumental in catapulting the need to stop the world’s most destructive fossil fuel project to the top of the agenda in the UK, which in turn has had a real impact in Canada. Working in close partnership with Indigenous First Nations communities who are directly affected, we have built an informal network that is working with grassroots activists, NGOs and parliamentarians alike, targeting UK corporate and financial involvement.

APE provided us with the funding to co-ordinate a UK-wide campaign targeting BP, the last major oil multinational to enter into Canada’s Tar Sands – the most destructive fossil fuel project in the world. BP is on the verge of embarking on its first major extraction project, known as ‘Sunrise’. Our aim was to persuade them not to do it, through mobilising public opposition in the UK to turn it into a PR nightmare for them.

To this end, we organised a ‘BP Fortnight of Shame’, which involved grassroots actions targeting BP around the country. This included shutting down several BP petrol stations, a media stunt delivering thousands of ‘rebranded’ BP logos to their doorstep, a new website, a campaign briefing and some very snazzy stickers.

At the same time we worked with the FairPensions coalition of organisations who had tabled a shareholder resolution at the BP AGM, to promote the campaign, bring First Nations representatives over to attend the AGM and ask difficult questions. We also organised a noisy protest outside the AGM on the day.

We got some excellent media coverage, put BP on the backfoot in front of their shareholders and in the international press, and Tar Sands totally dominated the AGM. If Deepwater Horizon hadn’t exploded just a couple of days later, Tar Sands would now be BP’s biggest headache.

We also worked with Liberate Tate to pressure UK cultural institutions – and the Tate in particular –  to drop BP sponsorship of the arts. Through several messy, oily actions, we are continuing to place pressure on BP to stay out of the Tar Sands during a period with increased media attention due to the Gulf Spill.

In July we organised a day of action for Canada Day in Trafalgar Square, to increase awareness of the Alberta Tar Sands amongst Canadian expats.  We produced a viral video called “Save Canada.”

Finally, in August, we were part of the Camp for Climate Action which pitched up in the grounds of RBS HQ in Edinburgh, to highlight their investment in fossil fuels. Our participation in the Camp, including bringing two First Nations representatives over, helped ensure that Tar Sands was one of the major issues talked about, acted on and reported by the media.  During the camp we organised a Tar Sands action which shut down an RBS branch in Edinburgh and created a “toxic tailings pond” on the Royal Mile in the middle of the RBS-sponsored Edinburgh Fringe.

Keep an eye on what we’re up to here: and join the No Tar Sands Facebook group.

We were over the moon when we heard that we’d got APE money for the UK Tar Sands Network. It means we can organise a kick-ass campaign to target BP – the UK’s weakest link in the tar sands chain – just when we can have most impact. It means we can continue to ensure that Indigenous peoples’ voices are front and centre of the tar sands campaign in the UK. And it means we can respond to and support the explosion of interest and activism on this issue. Thank you APE, you’ve made all the difference!

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