More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on ministers to publish advice on the impacts of fracking on UK climate targets.
A report by the Committee on Climate Change was delivered to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) more than seven weeks ago on 30 March 2016.
But so far the government has not laid the advice before parliament, despite a legal requirement to do so as soon “as practicably possible”.
The 2015 Infrastructure Act requires the Energy and Climate Change Secretary to request advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) every five years about fracking and onshore oil and gas. The advice should cover the impact of onshore oil and gas activities on meeting carbon reduction targets and the carbon budgets. Specifically, the advice should look at “combustion of, and fugitive emissions from, petroleum got through onshore activity”.
The act requires the Energy and Climate Change Secretary to lay a copy of the advice before Parliament as soon as practicable after each reporting period. The current reporting period ended on 1 April 2016.
The petition, by 38 degrees, was launched late last month. At the time of writing, the number of signatures had reached 101,048.
The petition is addressed to Amber Rudd, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary and asks her to:
“Please publish the report by the Climate Change Committee on whether shale gas development (also known as fracking) in the UK would mean the UK fails to meet its climate target.
“Please don’t withhold this crucial information from the public. Withholding this information makes a mockery of the investigation into whether this dangerous new energy source should be allowed in the UK. Decisions about our energy future should be made with the facts in hand.”
On 18 May, the shadow Energy Minister, Barry Gardiner, asked a written parliamentary question on the issue:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, when her Department plans to lay the Committee on Climate Change report on Compatibility of Onshore Petroleum with meeting UK carbon budgets and its response before Parliament.”
The Energy and Climate Change Minister, Andrea Leadsom, replied on 25 May:
“The Department [DECC] has received the Committee on Climate Change report. We are considering the report and will lay it before Parliament with our response in due course.”
A DECC spokesperson gave a few more details to DrillOrDrop:
“The Infrastructure Act clearly requires Government to consider the CCC report properly before responding, and that is what is happening.
“As such, if we had laid the CCC’s report before Parliament as soon as we received it we would not have met our legal requirements.
“We are carefully considering this report to ensure it is given the proper consideration it is due. It will be published as soon as that process is complete.”
Third Energy decision
Some opponents of fracking have argued that the advice should have been available to North Yorkshire County Council when it made its decision on 23 May 2016 about Third Energy’s plans to frack near Kirby Misperton.
The National Planning Policy Framework says “local planning authorities should adopt proactive strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change”. It also says they should “plan for new development in locations and ways which reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.
Professor Nick Cowern, who spoke against Third Energy’s plans at the North Yorkshire meeting, had given evidence two months earlier to the Committee on Climate Change about its advice to the Energy Secretary.
He argued that any leaks of methane from fracking had major implications for the climate because methane is 36 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
He criticised the KM8 planning application for making no reference to methane emissions. He questioned claims by the UK oil and gas industry that controls on emissions would be superior to those in the US. And he said proposals by York University to monitor methane from Third Energy’s site using a single sensor at a fixed location would not quantify emissions.
He also criticised DECC for using out of date figures on the global warming potential of methane. According to 2013 figures from the International Panel on Climate Change, methane had a 44% higher warming potential than the figure used by DECC. He told the council:
“This makes fracked gas worse than imported conventional LNG from the Middle East, even under DECC’s optimistic assumptions on emissions”.
“An in-depth version of the material in this talk has been presented in written and verbal evidence to the Committee on Climate Change, whose report will only be published by the government after your committee’s decision has been made.”
Professor Cowern said North Yorkshire County Council had a statutory obligation to consider climate change and for this reason the application should be refused.
Councillors approved the application by seven votes to four. In response to a question about how Third Energy’s plans fitted with measures to reduce carbon emissions, the planning officer, Vicky Perkin, told councillors:
“It is not the responsibility of the planning authority to expect an applicant to deal with matters of climate change in that context in such a wide scale. You cannot apply that to a specific planning application.”
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