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Green campaigners hail Canada move

UK campaigners against oil extraction in the forests of Canada have hailed a court ruling that the country's government must take steps to protect caribou threatened by the development.

The Co-operative, which is funding the legal fight by indigenous communities in Alberta, hopes the victory will curtail expansion of the "tar sands".

The Co-op opposes the exploitation of the unconventional fuel source in the Canadian province of Alberta because of its impact on the climate and environment.

Campaigners say the industry is putting woodland caribou, once common in the forests of Alberta, at risk of extinction by disturbing their habitat and exposing them to more hunting by wolves.

A study by Dr Stan Boutin of the University of Alberta, funded by the Co-operative, found there were now just 175-275 caribou in the traditional territory of the Beaver Lake Cree people, an area the size of Switzerland. According to the report, the two herds within the Beaver Lake Cree territories have seen numbers fall by almost three quarters since the 1990s.

The Beaver Lake Cree are one of several communities who have brought the legal action calling on the Canadian government to uphold its legal duty to protect the woodland caribou. They say Canadian law requires the government to draw up a recovery plan for threatened species, which it has not done for the woodland caribou.

Mr Justice Paul Crampton, in the Federal Court of Canada, has now ordered environment minister Peter Kent to reconsider the decision not to issue an emergency order to protect the animal's habitat. The court has given the minister until September to issue a recovery plan for the woodland caribou.

Paul Monaghan, head of sustainability and social goals at the Co-operative, said: "The court has ruled that the Canadian government must carry out its legal obligations to protect the threatened woodland caribou.

"If it does that in accordance with the best available science it would require abandoning the 47% of planned tar sands expansion that are within or near critical habitat. As the world's most climate-hostile transport fuel, curtailing expansion can only be welcomed by those who wish to see progress towards a low-carbon economy."

Climate campaigners claim oil from tar sands is much more polluting than conventional sources of the fuel because of the extra energy needed in its production.

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