The UK government has issued an order halting all fracking operations in the country effective immediately. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland already have measures in place against fracking. Government ministers also issued a warning to shale gas companies that it will not support future fracking projects. The Guardian calls the announcement “a crushing blow to companies that had hopes of profiting from one of the few remaining opportunities for to growth in the fossil fuel industry.” The decision came after years of bitter opposition to fracking by environmental advocacy groups and many local communities.
Amazing! and amazing thanks to all the activists who made it happen! https://t.co/Zh2u6rNPDx
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) November 1, 2019
The halt to fracking was ordered after a report from the Oil and Gas Authority warned it was not possible to rule out “unacceptable” consequences for those living near fracking sites or to predict the magnitude of earthquakes that fracking might trigger.The government said it would not agree to any future fracking “until compelling new evidence is provided” that proves fracking could be safe.
Andrea Leadsom, the business and energy secretary, told The Guardian the government has always been clear that shale gas exploration in the UK must be carried out safely. “After reviewing the OGA’s report into recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, it is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community. For this reason, I have concluded that we should put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect,” she said.
While her words are comforting, they are belied somewhat by pronouncements from Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the past. He once referred to fracking as “glorious news for humanity” and urged the UK to “leave no stone unturned, or unfracked” in pursuit of shale gas. It didn’t help fracking advocates that efforts to produce shale gas in the UK have dragged on for years at a cost to taxpayers of at least £32 million so far without producing any energy in return.
Rebecca Newsom, the head of politics for Greenpeace UK, said it has “been clear for some time that the government’s big bet on fracking is bust.” Craig Bennett, the chief executive of Friends of the Earth, said, “This moratorium is a tremendous victory for communities and the climate. For nearly a decade local people across the country have fought a David and Goliath battle against this powerful industry. We are proud to have been part of that fight.”
Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, the shadow business and energy secretary, said the moratorium was a victory for local people and the government owed them an apology. “When the Tory government overruled local democratic decisions to halt fracking, communities did not give up. When fracking protesters went to jail, communities did not give up. And now they have forced the government to U-turn. The Tories owe the public an apology and an explanation of how much public money they wasted while ignoring the science.”
Transitioning To A Low Carbon Economy
At the same time as it announced the moratorium on fracking, the UK government said it is embarking on a major review of how the nation can transition to a low carbon economy by 2050. In reality, we all know it has to happen a lot sooner than that, but baby steps are better than no steps. Chancellor Sajid Javid said that review “was a vital next step” in delivering the government’s 2050 climate target while “supporting growth and lancing costs” to avoid “placing unfair burdens on families or businesses. We must all play a part in protecting the planet for future generations,” he added.
The government’s interim report will be published in the spring with a final report due before the next UN global climate talks in Glasgow next fall. Simon Clarke, the exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said it was “humbling to launch this unprecedented review into how we end the UK’s contribution to climate change. Until recently people said that ‘Net Zero’ was impossible, but this work is a giant step towards making it happen, enabling us to set out a road map for an economy that is cleaner, more efficient, and works for everyone, while preserving our planet,” he said.
Pretty words. Now to match them with powerful actions.
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