The Conservatives have been left the only major political party in the UK to back fracking, after Labour on Monday announced it would introduce a ban if it wins the next general election.
Shadow energy and climate secretary, Barry Gardiner, told the Labour party conference on 26 September that the party has strengthened its previous policy on fracking: a moratorium until environmental conditions are met.
Gardiner told delegates: “Today I am announcing that the next Labour government will ban fracking in the UK.
“Fracking locks us into an energy infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels long after our country needs to have moved to renewables.
“The next Labour government will back the clean technologies of the future.”
Labour will consult with industry and the Trade Unions about the best way to transition our energy industry, he said, to create the “vital jobs and apprenticeships we are going to need for the UK’s low-carbon future.”
The announcement comes the same week that the first shipment of shale gas fracked in the US is due to arrive on UK soil. The import of ethane by chemicals giant Ineos is due on Tuesday, 27 September to arrive in Scotland, where a motion to ban fracking was passed in June.
The Scottish National Party abstained on the vote but the party had imposed a moratorium on shale gas extraction in January 2015.
The Liberal Democracts voted to ban Fracking in England and Wales at the Party’s spring conference in March and helped to vote through the ban in Scotland. The Greens have for three years been outright opposed to fracking and Plaid Cymru has backed the moratorium on fracking in Wales since last year.
Even Diane James, the new leader of UKIP, which has traditionally courted climate science denial and promoted fracking, seems to be taking a cautious stance on fracking. Ahead of being named party leader she stated: “My personal view which might not become UKIP policy under any review is that I am against fracking until I see a comprehensive justification for it and the environmental risks have been properly understood.”
Within a fortnight of Labour’s announcement, central government is due to decide whether to accept Cuadrilla’s appeal against Lancashire County Council’s decision last year to refuse its application for two fracking sites.
The policy move from Labour raises questions about what the party would do with gas potentially already being fracked in the UK should it be elected to government in the future.
Shale gas has been touted as a ‘bridge fuel’ to replace coal in the short term, before it too is phased out in the 2020s and 2030s to prevent global temperatures from running over the 2°C threshold.
Another shale company, Third Energy, is also waiting to hear whether it will be allowed to drill in the UK after Friends of the Earth and a local anti-fracking group, Frack Free Ryedale (FFR), launched a legal challenge to North Yorkshire County Council’s decision to give fracking the green light in May.
Welcoming Labour’s news, Peter Allen of FFR today said in statement: “We are pleased to see that mainstream political opinion is now aligning itself with the views of the Great British public, who are overwhelmingly opposed to fracking.
“Pro-fracking councillors will now be wondering if they can hang on to their seats in next year’s council elections, particularly in areas threatened by fracking.”
Photo: Ron F via Flickr