Fracking not consistent with carbon targets without stricter tests

8th July 2016

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Related tags

  • Mitigation ,
  • Fossil fuels ,
  • Energy


Edward Godsiffe

The exploitation of shale gas is not compatible with UK climate targets unless key tests are met, analysis by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has found.

The long awaited CCC report argues that exploiting shale gas reserves creates considerable uncertainty for UK greenhouse-gas emissions. It also warns that fracking on a significant scale is not compatible with UK carbon budgets, or the 2050 commitment to reduce emissions by at least 80%, unless a number of tests are satisfied. These are:

  • the introduction of robust regulations during well development, production and decommissioning to limit methane leakage;
  • that shale gas should only displace imported gas and not used to supplement current domestic consumption; and
  • that any additional production emissions from shale gas wells are offset through reductions elsewhere in the UK economy, to ensure carbon budgets are met.

CCC member Professor Jim Skea said: ‘The report sets out the tests that must be met for shale gas development to be consistent with UK carbon budgets. Existing uncertainties over the nature of the exploitable shale gas resource and the potential size of a UK industry make it impossible to know how difficult it will be to meet the tests. Clarification of the regulation of the sector will also be needed.’

In its response to the report, Decc said it accepts that uncertainty exists over the emissions associated with shale gas and that appropriate emission mitigation techniques should be employed where practical during the exploration phase.

However, energy minister, Andrea Leadsom was unwilling to commit to tighter regulations for the fracking industry. ‘The government is committed to exploring the UK’s shale gas potential whilst maintaining the very highest safety and environmental standards. We are confident that the existing regulators have the right powers and flexibility to ensure that emissions are minimised,’ she said.

The CCC’s advice relates solely to greenhouse-gas emissions and the impact on carbon budgets, other issues that have been raised in relation to the development of shale gas, such as local noise, traffic, water and wider environmental impacts, that have attracted more general concern about fracking were outside the scope of the report.


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