The 16-year-old Swedish climate campaigner, Greta Thunberg, has described the UK’s support for shale gas as “irresponsible” and “beyond absurd”.
Speaking to MPs at Westminster yesterday, she said:
“The UK’s active current support of new exploitation of fossil fuels – for example, the UK shale gas fracking industry, the expansion of its North Sea oil and gas fields, the expansion of airports as well as the planning permission for a brand new coal mine – is beyond absurd.
“This ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind.”
DrillOrDrop has compiled some reaction to her speech.
Claire Perry MP, energy minister
“We are a highly gas dependent economy, as we know. We want to cut the amount of gas we use but it is a good transitional fuel.
“What we want to do is explore soberly and scientifically whether there are opportunities to extract gas onshore in a way that helps us with our energy security, and see if we can continue to generate jobs as a result of this.
“Why is it we trust the science so much on climate change but when it comes to the science saying shale gas extraction is safe, we refuse to listen.”
“The UK is a global leader in tackling climate change, going further than any other G7 nation by cutting our emissions by 40% since 1990 whilst growing our economy by two-thirds, and we have high ambitions to go further.
“That’s why we’ve asked our independent climate experts for advice on a net zero emissions target and set out plans to transition to low emission vehicles and significantly reduce pollution through our Clean Air Strategy.
“As we transition to a low carbon economy there will continue to be a need for oil and gas, which are projected to provide around two-thirds of our total primary energy in 2035. Continuing to manage production whilst reducing our overall usage of fossil fuels is the best way to meet our climate targets in a sustainable way.”
Source: Response to DrillOrDrop
Michael Gove MP, environment secretary
“As I listened to you I felt great admiration but also a sense of responsibility and guilt because I recognise I am of your parents’ generation. I recognise we have not done nearly enough to deal with the problem of climate change,” he said.
“Suddenly, thanks to the leadership of Greta and others, it has become inescapable that we have to act. Greta, your voice has been heard and we are all responsible for making sure that we listen and we respond and that we change.”
Source: Response to Greta Thunberg, quoted in The Times
Ken Cronin, chief executive, UK Onshore Oil and Gas
“The science should have the loudest voice in this conversation, which needs to go beyond just keeping fossil fuels in the ground. The climate impact of these fuels is primarily due to combustion, but there are many things that we use them for that do not involve this process, including the production of medicines, food and other vital life essentials. Even bicycles and home insulation are made using oil and gas.
“In the future hydrogen has been recognised as a potential ultra-low carbon option to replace methane. The most cost effective route for the production of hydrogen would be converting it from methane and storing the carbon through carbon capture and storage (CCS). In the medium term, with over 22 million of us using natural gas to heat our homes, the best decarbonisation solution is to stop the troubling trend of importing gas and instead produce it here, which would save 69 million tonnes of CO2 compared with LNG. On this basis we fundamentally believe there is a role for shale gas in the UK and more broadly internationally alongside other technologies and changes.”
Source: Response to DrillOrDrop
Nick Mace, environmental manager, Cuadrilla
“Establishing a shale gas industry here in the UK is absolutely compatible with and indeed critical for reducing global carbon emissions and supporting the country’s energy needs as we move towards creating more renewable energy.
“At the moment, renewables simply cannot create anywhere near enough energy to meet UK demand and shale gas has a vital part to play in providing a domestic gas supply with a lower carbon footprint than importing it from across the world in ships.
“It is important to look again at exactly how hydraulic fracturing works, understand the facts as opposed to the myths and welcome the opportunity to establish a domestic gas supply which can be part of progress on climate change as well as boosting our economy, create jobs and revenue for the UK.”
Source: Response to DrillOrDrop
“The UK has made considerable progress in decarbonising its economy. Since 1990, UK emissions have fallen by c.40%, according to the Government’s Committee on Climate Change. A significant element of this has been displacing coal in electricity generation and on a global basis this trend needs to continue.
“However, today, gas meets 40% of the UK’s primary energy requirements and heats 80% of British homes and it is clear from every forecast that we will continue to need gas as we transition to lower carbon alternatives. So the choice is where do we source that gas? It is better environmentally to utilise home grown gas rather than imported gas, even ignoring jobs, security and balance of payments.”
Source: Response to DrillOrDrop
“The UK relies on gas to keep its homes, hospitals and businesses warm. 80% of UK homes need gas. The country currently spends £400m a month importing foreign gas. Using our own gas instead does not increase consumption – nor does it ignore the need for better insulation and efficiency, it simply means we spend UK money on UK gas. UK gas also has a lower environmental impact because it does not have to be shipped around the world.
INEOS takes its responsibilities very seriously – to this generation and the next. It is essential for renewable technologies continue to be developed and brought on-line. In the meantime, people still need to heat their homes and cook their food. Gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, and UK gas has a lower carbon footprint compared to imports
DrillOrDrop also invited comments from Third Energy, and the shale gas commissioner, Natascha Engel. Third Energy declined to comment. The others did not respond.
Barry Gardiner MP, shadow energy minister
“We are on track for catastrophic levels of global warming, yet in the UK we pride ourselves on the 40% reduction in emissions that we say we have achieved on 1990 levels, while achieving a 72% increase in GDP. But the truth is out there. Schoolchildren are teaching it to us. Those figures do not include aviation or shipping emissions. They do not include our imports, our exports and they have largely come from the clean power directive in the European Union, which forced us to announce an end to coal-fired power stations. That is why thousands of our schoolchildren are on climate strike: they know that we are not acting with the speed and seriousness that the climate emergency demands.”
William Hague MP
“It is time to recognise that these young activists are indeed focused on the right issue. The solutions presented by protestors in London or by Green parties around the world may be ill thought-out, but the analysis is now hard to gainsay. The film presented by Sir David Attenborough last week was compelling in its argument that there is perhaps only a decade left to avert the greatest threat Earth has faced in thousands of years.”
“Now the question is what to do about it, and unless conservatives around the world fully embrace the arguments for more urgent action they will find they are losing the support of a generation.”
“Conservatives around the globe should wake up – here at home but also American Republicans, Australian Liberals and German Christian Democrats – and listen to today’s 16 year-olds. They are becoming passionate about this issue, and they are right. But they need persuading that the answers will lie in excellence and freedom, not in command and control. That philosophy is not being offered to them at present.
“Providing it might well be the most important challenge on earth for the next leaders of the right.”
Source: Response to Greta Thunberg. Extracts from article in the Telegraph
Ed Miliband MP
“If we do not act, people will say in the future, “You knew the facts, but you did not care enough.” We will be known as the generations with the knowledge of what was to come but without the will or imagination to prevent it. We will be condemned, and rightly so. The right response to rebellion on our streets is to produce a revolution in climate leadership, and the time for action is now.”
Caroline Lucas MP
“It’s time more MPs of all parties prioritised the pursuit of shared priorities over the constant quest for things to disagree about. That’s why I am a founding member of the More United MP Network, a new platform for MPs of all parties to work together in the national interest, no matter which party is in power. The aim is to go beyond compromises fudged together in the mushy middle ground of our politics. There is an opportunity here for MPs to do something more radical and explore bold policies that can unite seemingly distant parts of our political landscape.”
“Tackling urgent climate dangers is one of the stated priorities for the network this year and there are ample grounds to expect that MPs of all parties would be willing to consider policies like no more airport expansion and better ways to measure the success of the economy than the infinite growth that is consuming our finite natural resources. Their time has come.”
Source: Extracts from article for I News While Brexit dominates, 50 MPs from seven parties are joining forces to get important issues back on the agenda
Layla Moran MP
“We must now seize the opportunity created by Greta. Politicians from all sides of the political divide must come together to tackle the biggest issue affecting not just the UK, but the world. First, the UK must declare a national climate emergency; local councils up and down the country are already doing so, but for the governments of the world to take note the UK must take the first step forward.
“Next, the government’s advisory body the Committee on Climate Change is about to report on the steps needed for the UK to have net-zero carbon emissions. This is the opportunity to act. The recommendations must be taken for what they are: an urgent to-do list for this Tory government.
“First, they must pass a new law mandating the government to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, or earlier if possible. The Tories must also reverse some of the most damaging decisions they’ve made for the climate, reversing subsidy cuts, bringing back zero-carbon homes, banning fracking and bringing forward the date for getting rid of fossil fuel powered cars. The Liberal Democrats have been at the forefront on climate change, calling for action long before Labour or the Tories, and we intend to stay there.”