Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace defended their campaign against shale gas and accused the government of failing to take action over greenhouse gas emissions from coal.
The comments came after climate change minister, Greg Barker, described environmental organisations as “foolish” and morally-disingenuous” for opposing fracking but – in his words – “doing very little to deal with coal”.
Mr Barker told a meeting on shale gas at Westminster on Monday that campaign groups took part in last summer’s protest against Cuadrilla’s oil exploration site at Balcombe, rather than trying to stop the rise of unabated coal in Europe.
He told the meeting it was: “Much, much easier to go to Balcombe and sit in the summer sunshine and protest while the parish council makes you sandwiches.”
The campaign groups responded saying:
- Government policy was failing to tackle emissions from burning coal
- Some policies were making the problem worse
- Ministers refused to meet environmental organisations to discuss the issue
Simon Bullock, of Friends of the Earth energy team, said: “We have been campaigning to stop coal; it is the Government who have been inactive here”.
He told InvestigatingBalcombeAndCuadrilla.com Friends of the Earth campaigned for 18 months to include a 2030 power decarbonisation target in the Energy Act. This was supported by 200+ organisations and would have ensured that coal power was phased out in line with climate change goals.
“The Government, including Greg Barker, fought hard and successfully to keep that target out of the Act”, he said
Simon Bullock added: “The Government’s desperately weak Emissions Performance Standard and their refusal to allow climate change to be considered in new power station planning applications are just two examples of policy failure meaning that without the 2030 decarb target there are currently no safeguards to reduce coal in the power mix.”
“The problem with coal is entirely of the Government’s making”, he said. “The world cannot afford to burn more than a quarter of existing coal, oil and gas reserves. President Obama and Shell have both acknowledged this “unburnable carbon” problem. This is an issue for gas as well as coal and oil – Government energies should be focussed on renewables and energy efficiency, not further unburnable fossil fuel exploration.”
He added: “Shale gas is not a solution to the urgent problem of climate change. That, and its local environmental impacts, are the reasons we are campaigning against it”
Louise Hutchins, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “Greenpeace has written to the government requesting meetings on their worrying plans to subsidise out-dated coal plants and keep them polluting for as long as possible, and our requests have been ignored.
“This is particularly unfortunate, as by the sound of his comments, Greg Barker seems to think that coal is only a problem in other countries. Which in itself rather odd, as if the UK didn’t have a coal problem, then what exactly would shale gas be the supposed solution to?”
We have asked the Department of Energy and Climate Change to comment.