Danny Bonnett and I are meeting David Gauke, the UK minister for tax, on Friday. In the context of recent affirmations on the reality of climate change from the leadership of the Conservative party, we will discuss with him the policy implications, particularly for shale gas or fracking. The following is what we intend to say:
David Cameron and George Osbourne have recently stated that climate change is man-made and that we should do what we can to prevent it. We are faced with a choice between either leaving shale gas in the ground or with missing international pledges to limit temperature increases to 2° Celsius. What will the government choose?
David Cameron, UK Prime Minister “I believe man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces”.
“I’m someone who believes climate change is happening, that it’s caused by human beings. We should do what we can to prevent it” George Osbourne, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer.
According to the science, current climate change targets in the EU would lead to a 30-50% chance of keeping temperature rises below 2° Celsius.
To me, “doing what we can to prevent it” does not equate to aiming for a 40% chance of success.
Put simply, if we are to back up these words and commitments with action, shale gas production cannot happen in the UK, even with carbon capture and storage. At the point when shale gas production in the UK would be becoming large scale, we would have to stop, leaving wells only partly tapped. Investment in shale gas would also delay investment in very low or zero carbon sources, leaving a huge legacy for future generations.
Achim Steiner, head of UN Environmental Programme “We sometimes have to take a step back and ask ourselves: for the sake of having another 20 years of dirt cheap energy are we really going to put millions of years of evolution, of ecosystems, of ecosystem services at risk?”.
I agree with George Osbourne when he states “Let’s try and do this in as cheap a possible way as we can”. The cheapest way to tackle climate change is to invest now in zero or very low carbon energy. The sooner we make this move, the lower the overall costs, as Lord Stern described in his report in 2007. If we want to continue to revitalise the economy, let’s do it in a way that creates skills and jobs that are relevant for the future.