Environmentalists and community members are accusing the U.K. government of climate “hypocrisy” in light of the newly-ratified Paris agreement.
Ignoring massive local opposition, as well as grave threats to community and climate, the British government on Thursday overruled a local ban to greenlight a controversial fracking project in northern England.
“This is a sad day as it is clear to all that this government neither listens nor can it be trusted to do the right thing for local communities,” said Pat Davies, chair of the Preston New Road Action Group, which is one of the local bodies that for years has fought against the project.
More than 18,000 residents of Lancashire objected to the plan for fracking giant Cuadrilla to drill up to four wells at the Preston New Road site, prompting local officials last year to reject the proposal. But Cuadrilla’s appeal left the decision solely up to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid, who on Thursday ruled in favor of the project. The decision to drill at a second site, Roseacre Wood, has been postponed.
Environmentalists and community members were outraged over the decision, accusing the U.K. government of “dismantling democracy” as well as climate “hypocrisy” in light of the commitments made under the newly-ratified Paris agreement.
The decision came hours after the landmark climate treaty surpassed a key threshold of support from global nations, meaning it will officially enter into force on November 4. With increasing evidence pointing to the dangers of shale drilling—including new findings that oil and gas drilling activities are emitting as much as 60 percent more methane than previously thought—campaigners vowed to continue fighting against the fracking project.
“[T]oday of all days, you’d think the government would be embracing the transition to clean, sustainable power, not doubling down on dash for fracked gas,” wrote Greenpeace fracking campaigner Hannah Martin.
“Dismantling the democratic process to facilitate a dirty fossil fuel industry when only months ago the U.K. committed to climate change targets in Paris is another example of saying one thing and doing another,” Davies said. “Profit clearly comes before people. This decision will be scrutinized by many, not just the people of Lancashire and this travesty of justice will not be accepted. This is not the end. We will challenge this.”
“Instead of shoving us down a dangerous path that inevitably leads to climate change, the government should invest in renewables and energy efficiency, an emerging industry that could create 24,000 jobs in the north west alone,” added Friends of the Earth (FOE) north-west campaigner Helen Rimmer. “This fight continues until this unproven and unpopular industry disappear for good.”
Indeed, project opponents are already planning a non-violent, direct action response to the ruling for Saturday. Meanwhile, condemnation over the government’s “disgusting contempt for democracy” spread across social media.
— Michael Calderbank (@Calderbank) October 6, 2016
Outraged government has overridden Lancashire and granted permission for fracking at Preston New Road site. Affront to local democracy
— Cat Smith (@CatSmithMP) October 6, 2016
RAFF’s reaction to disgusting decision made in total ignorance of facts & total disregard for health & environment https://t.co/B0zAPq8Ttv
— RAFF (@RAFF_group) October 6, 2016
As FOE notes, “this decision in Lancashire sets a dangerous precedent for fracking being forced on people everywhere,” as more than 200 areas across the U.K. are slated for possible fracking.
In a Thursday column, the Guardian‘s Damian Carrington dismantles each of the British government’s arguments for expanding shale drilling—energy security, lower power bills, a bridge to lower carbon sources—which, he notes, are concurrent with increasing roadblocks for new renewable energy sources, such as on-shore wind farms.
“Javid’s decision shows the government remains unwavering in its support for unproven, climate-polluting and unpopular fracking, whilst cracking down on proven, clean and popular renewables,” Carrington concludes. “The fight to deliver a smart energy policy is tough enough—supplies must be simultaneously affordable, clean and secure—without shooting yourself in the foot.”
‘Leaks from oil and gas activities around the world are responsible for a lot more methane than we thought’
According to the research published online Wednesday in the journal Nature, they may be as much as 60 percent greater.
“Our study shows that leaks from oil and gas activities around the world are responsible for a lot more methane than we thought,” said co-author Lori Bruhwiler, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research scientist, in a press statement.
Out of the 623 million tons of methane—which comes in second after CO2 for greenhouse gas potency—emitted by all sources annually, fossil fuels are responsible for 132 million to 165 million tons, or roughly 20-25 percent, the team lead by NOAA and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) scientists found.
Using the emissions’ “isotopic signatures,” the researchers were able to determine if the they were from fossil fuels or other sources.
The study’s abstract states: “Our findings imply a greater potential for the fossil fuel industry to mitigate anthropogenic climate forcing, but we also find that methane emissions from natural gas as a fraction of production have declined from approximately 8 percent to approximately 2 percent over the past three decades.”
On the former point, Bruhwiler says that fixing leaks can help slash the emissions in the short term.
The latter finding, the researchers say, indicates that fossil fuel extraction is not behind the global uptick in methane emissions. But then, what is?
“We believe methane produced by microbial sources—cows, agriculture, landfills, wetlands, and fresh waters—are responsible for the increase, but we cannot yet pinpoint which are the primary drivers,” lead author Stefan Schwietzke, a scientist with CIRES at the University of Colorado Boulder, said. “If the methane is mainly coming from cows or ag[riculture], then we could potentially do something about it. If it’s coming from decaying vegetation in wetlands or fresh waters, then a warming climate could be the culprit, which means that it could be part of a self-reinforcing feedback loop leading to more climate change. Those are big ifs, and we need to figure them out.”
A study published last month from watchdog group Oil Change International (OCI) in partnership with 14 other environmental organizations stated that “No new fossil fuel extraction or transportation infrastructure should be built, and governments should grant no new permits for them.”
That’s because “The potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields and mines would take us beyond 2°C of warming,” the groups wrote.
“If the world is serious about achieving the goals agreed in Paris,” said OCI executive director Stephen Kretzmann of the climate accord, “governments have to stop the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.”