In 2008 two major U.S. foundations asked CorpEthics to recruit the groups, develop the strategy, create a coordinated campaign, and act as a re-granting agency for the North American Tar Sands Campaign. The tar sands of Alberta posed a serious threat to the climate in that they were the third largest oil reserve in the world, and would require the destruction of a native boreal forest the size of Florida. CorpEthics coordinated the campaign in Canada and the U.S. until 2014 when the two national campaigns were separated due to their complexity and strategic focus.

From the very beginning, the campaign strategy was to land-lock the tar sands so their crude could not reach the international market where it could fetch a high price per barrel. This meant national and grassroots organizing to block all proposed pipelines.

This strategy is successful to this day. All the proposed pipelines in Canada have effectively been blocked, as have those proposed in the U.S. The Keystone XL Campaign became the most well-known of all the pipeline campaigns achieving a remarkable victory when President Obama not only rejected it, but also publicly stated that “some oil has to stay in the ground if we are to avoid the dangers of climate change.”

The Tar Sands Campaign jump started the climate movement in the U.S. as major political figures, celebrities, and a diverse array of NGOs came together to pressure the Administration to reject this pipeline. It also played a role in helping to unseat the Conservative Party in Alberta and nationally.

Referencing the rejection of the Keystone XL, the new premier of Alberta committed to cap emissions from the tar sands (which effectively limits production), put an increasing price on carbon, end dependence on coal-fired power plants, and shift to renewables. The new Liberal Party Prime Minister’s first major action was to commit Canada to a course to achieve a 1.5 degree Celsius target.

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