When he concluded his speech at the start of the recent UN climate change summit in Paris, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron said: “Instead of making excuses tomorrow to our children and grandchildren, we should be taking action against climate change today.”
Barely is the ink dry on the climate agreement announced in Paris over the weekend and it looks like it is business as usual for the British Government in promoting fossil fuels, just at a time when we should be starting to phase them out in line with the UN accord.
To make matters worse in a vote later today, MPs are expected to vote to allow fracking under national parks, as well as the UK’s other most protected landscapes, such as world heritage sites and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. And because the vote is a ballot one, this means that MPs will not actually vote on the matter, either.
The move is a complete U-turn by the Government.
Earlier in the year, they announced that they would be banning fracking from national parks and other protected areas. But in a deeply cynical move, they are now set to allow fracking under the protected areas, so long as the drilling starts from outside their boundary, and it takes place some 1,200 metres below ground.
The sneaky parliamentary move had led to the Labour Shadow Energy Secretary Lisa Nandy to accuse Ministers of using a “parliamentary back door” to try to approve the “weak regulations” without sufficient debate.
In a statement, Nandy said: “Fracking should not go ahead in Britain until stronger safeguards are in place to protect drinking water sources and sensitive parts of our countryside like national parks.”
She was not the only one to condemn the move. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the government had shown a “complete lack of regard for protecting some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK and its wildlife”.
Meanwhile Friends of the Earth has also called on the Government to end their “ideological love affair with fracking” arguing that “scaling up of shale gas” is “completely incompatible” with the recent agreement signed in Paris.
However, the government has been boosted in its pro-fracking push by the publications of the Task Force on Shale Gas, led by former Labour MP Lord Chris Smith but which is funded by the shale gas industry, which controversially concluded that shale gas can be produced safely.
Their report has been condemned by anti-fracking campaigners. Barbara Richardson from the Roseacre Awareness Group (RAG), which is trying to stop leading British fracking company Cuadrilla drilling nearby, called the report “a sham.”
She said: “Having just returned from the climate change talks in Paris to then see this report from Lord Smith I am appalled … We believe this is a sham set up to fool the general public. The fact that it is industry-funded says it all.”