EDMONTON – Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner will be greeted at a major UN climate-change conference in Mexico Monday with a full page newspaper ad that sarcastically says: “muchas gracias.”
 
The ad in Cancun’s Novedades de Quintana Roo newspaper includes a photo of Renner in a sombrero with text that reads: “As you join us in Cancun, we’d just like to say muchas gracias for all your work to keep the oil a-flowing from the tarsands in Canada. Subsidies, public relations campaigns and letting our pollution go up, up, up — what more could we ask for?”
 
The ad targeting Renner on the day he is scheduled to arrive at the conference is part of a larger “Gracias Por Nada” campaign by Environmental Defence and the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. The campaign is running in conjunction with the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP 16), a two-week-long United Nations summit on climate change that started last Monday.
 
Renner is one of only a few provincial environment ministers attending the conference.
 
The Canadian delegation is headed by federal Environment Minister John Baird.
 
The tongue-in-cheek “Gracias Por Nada” or ‘thanks for nothing’ campaign is using a mock oil group called the Canadian Alliance of Petroleum Peddlers to “thank” COP 16 delegates for doing nothing to prevent global warming, says Environmental Defence campaign director Matt Price.
The Canadian Alliance of Petroleum Peddlers is handing out T-shirts to COP 16 delegates that say: “I came to Cancun for a climate deal, but all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”
 
Reaction to the campaign has been mostly positive, Price said.
 
“The serious point we’re making inside this is that there really is no room in the atmosphere for digging up and burning all of the tarsands. That’s the bottom line,” said Price.
 
“We heard Rob Renner say, by his own admission, that he was going there to defend the tarsands … The Alberta government has been investing millions in a public relations campaign, they’ve put billions into subsidies — including for carbon capture and storage — when really the industry should be doing that by themselves.”
 
Renner said in an interview last week he expected Alberta to be targeted by climate-change protesters in Cancun.
 
“Oilsands are the target of choice,” Renner said. “The fact remains, we have to face the reality that there will not be a dramatic reduction in dependence on hydrocarbons until alternative kinds of fuel and energy are developed. That’s going to take some time. In the meantime, we have to ensure the hydrocarbons that are used on a global basis are produced in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way. That is the story I will be telling in Cancun. That is what we are so proud of here in Alberta.”
 
The province has been working on the world stage to portray itself as a responsible steward of Alberta’s oilsands resources. A series of negative campaigns in the United States have attacked Alberta’s energy and tourism industries with billboards and television spots highlighting images of oil-soaked ducks in Syncrude Canada’s tailings ponds.
 
Lush Cosmetics has joined oilsands protesters and launched its own campaign, vowing to ship its products using “tar-sands-free gasoline.”
 
However, news last week that Avon cosmetics intended to boycott fuel from Alberta’s oilsands is not true, according to an e-mail sent out to Alberta Avon representatives from Avon Canada’s president.
 
“While I can’t speculate about why a third party would make that statement, I can tell you absolutely and firmly that Avon is not conducting and is not supporting a boycott of any kind regarding the oilsands or any other fuel source,” said the notice from Chris Stevens.
 
Renner said it’s critical that Alberta is represented at the Cancun talks “to make sure that Alberta’s story gets told in the appropriate context within Canada.”
 
The minister said it is unlikely delegates will reach a final agreement in Cancun. “However, I believe that we can come out of the talks with positive momentum and a framework that will lead to an agreement next year in South Africa.”