The British government’s climate change advisors have given a cautious green light to fracking in the UK. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says fracking can proceed, if three key tests are met and the government utters it already planned to meet those tests – on methane leaks, gas consumption and carbon budgets. Environmentalist’s debate fracking will make the UK’s climate change targets impossible to achieve. But the CCC disagrees. Its tests of government policy are:
- Emissions should be strictly limited during shale gas development, production and well decommissioning. The CCC says this needs tight regulation, close monitoring of emissions, and rapid action to address any leaks.
- Overall gas consumption in the UK must remain in line with UK’s carbon budgets – so UK shale gas must displace imported gas, rather than increasing gas consumption overall.
- Emissions from shale gas production must be counted as part of the UK’s carbon budgets, and emissions in another part of the economy may need to be cut further in order to accommodate fracking.
Though the government is confident of reaching these conditions, a spokesman acknowledged that any increase in current carbon emissions in future would make current targets even more challenging. There exists already a mounting mismatch between the government’s long-term aptitudes on climate change and the procedures to deliver carbon cuts conferring to the CCC and National Grid. Vast uncertainty prevails about the forecasts on fracking from the CCC and the government. Presently UK has no shale gas production and many viewers consider the potential of fracking in the UK has been plugged.
Key features for noting
The Committee is projecting an aggressive path of shale gas increase with least essential regulation by 2030 guesses emissions of around 11 million tonnes of CO2 a year. Even this only a quarter of the UK’s emissions from agriculture and land use change. One expert reportedly told: “This is more or less loose change when it comes to the carbon budgets. It’s likely that the local effects like lorry disturbance will prove a more significant issue.”
While the CCC accepts the government’s reassurances on its three tests and the government is confident it has learnt from regulatory let-downs in the initial days of wildcat fracking in the US.
Professor Jim Skea of CCC says with best practice, UK shale gas may have a lower carbon footprint than much of the gas currently imported, which has to be compressed at excessive energy cost. More details are also required, on rules over the completion of wells, when methane can gulp out along with the fracking fluid injected into the ground to release the gas. The chapter and verse on the methodology of wells being inspected after decommissioning and previously they are abandoned are also required.
He reportedly said,“The CCC accepts that the government plans are mostly on track but wants more detail. Our recommendation is to monitor what government does because we are making the assumption that we have a very well regulated industry and we need some details filled in on that.”
The CCC also insisted the government to make improvement on capture and storage technology, which permits remnant fuels to be charred with minimal emissions of CO2. The Prime Minister earlier said this was vital for the UK before he argued a competition to develop it with a view to save cash.
The previous head of the Environment Agency, Chris Smith, said fracking should only go ahead if CCS was imposed, and the CCC report says that without CCS the UK would need to eliminate almost all CO2 from all sectors of the economy by 2050. A government narrator said ministers were in the process of working on other ways of inspiring CCS without a publicly-funded rivalry. It was also confirmed that the government still proposed to show target by the flag end of the year on achieving long-term CO2 targets. A final decision vests with the government to permit on the allowing of fracking at two sites in Lancashire. Energy firm Cuadrilla is appealing against Lancashire County Council’s denial to let it remove shale gas at Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood.
- Professor Richard Davies from Newcastle University, said: “To do what the Committee on Climate Change recommend, and do it transparently, could force the UK to develop the world’s best ‘smart’ monitoring technologies for emissions from well sites.”
- “There will be new business opportunities if a shale industry takes off.” Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace, said: “The idea that fracking can be squared with the UK’s climate targets is based on a tower of assumptions, caveats, and conditions on which there is zero certainty of delivery.” “The problem with ramping up a whole new high-carbon infrastructure and the fossil fuel vested interests to go with it is that you can’t just dial it down later on if emissions start going through the roof.”
- Labour’s Barry Gardiner said: “The CCC report lays out three fundamental tests but the government has decided to do precisely nothing to increase protection for the public or to deliver security for our climate targets.”
“On this basis, it is currently neither safe nor reasonable to approve any fracking in Britain.”
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