The UK government must take climate science and other scientific findings into account in setting national policies on oil and gas fracking, following a ruling of the High Court of England and Wales that represents a major win for advocacy group Talk Fracking.
“The court found that it was material to consider scientific evidence, including the effects on climate change, in deciding policy on fracking, and the government had failed to do so,” The Guardian reports. “The judgment implied that campaigners could raise climate change as a reason to object to planning permission for fracking sites, which will make it easier for campaigners to lobby against licencing new sites.”
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Justice Ian Dove “also suggested that gas from fracking might not be considered a low-carbon source of fuel, which could also hamper attempts to expand fracking around the country,” the paper adds. The judge concluded the government’s public engagement on the matter had been “so flawed in its design and processes as to be unlawful”.
“The court has clarified both that the government has behaved irresponsibly and recklessly with our democratic rulebook,” said Talk Fracking founder Joe Corré. “Their pretend consultation was a farce. It has also become clear with guidance from the court that objections to fracking on the basis of its climate change impacts must be considered at a local planning level.”
Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the London, UK-based Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, echoed the view that fracked gas is not a low-carbon energy source. “With the UK’s electricity system almost free of coal, natural gas is now effectively the most carbon-intensive major source of power,” he said. “Official advice from the Committee on Climate Change concluded that fracking was only compatible with national decarbonization targets if the gas produced replaced higher-carbon sources of energy.”
“Fracking has yet to take off in the UK as it has in the U.S.,” Climate Liability News notes. “Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland have implemented outright bans or have policies discouraging it. In England—the only part of the UK directly affected by the national planning document—there is a low level of support among the public. Many local campaigns have sprung up opposing its development and several court cases have been launched.”
But “local authorities have previously been told they cannot consider climate change as a factor in fracking licence decisions because it is a matter of national energy policy.”
Now, “what is clear from this judgment is that the government has to keep climate change science under review when formulating fracking policies in an open and transparent way,” said Talk Fracking attorney Rowan Smith.