On the final day of Parliament before the summer recess, the Government snuck out final approval for fracking in Lancashire. There’s no way of sugarcoating this: this was a very bad day.
For seven years since the frackers first reared their heads, local communities, the wider public and the global climate movement have waged a fierce campaign of resistance with huge wins along the way, halting the Conservatives’ mad dash for gas, and bringing the fracking industry to its knees. This is a horrible blow.
In all my time as Green Party co-leader, I have never seen a wave of dissent like it. Day after day, week after week, dozens and dozens of local people from grandmothers to young babies are at the gates of the site every single morning, making their feelings about this environmental vandalism perfectly clear. While this has been going on, public support for fracking has gone into freefall (plummeting to a measly 16% approval last year). Third Energy gave up their efforts altogether, chased out of Kirby Misperton with their drills between their legs, leaving nothing but a hole in a field to show for their efforts.
Only a few years ago, the Tories and their fossil fuel extracting chums were salivating at the thought of an American style dash for gas, with not even our National Parks being spared. It’s testament to incredible campaigners in the climate movement in the UK that we’ve stayed frack free to this day. Sadly, our Government remained grimly determined to get at least one well flowing, riding roughshod over the wishes of the local community, the rights to peaceful protest and the commitments of their own climate legislation. This week, they’ve firmly taken the side of the fossil fuel industries in the face of overwhelming public opposition and clear climate science.
The timing of this decision could not be more ironic or tragic. Our Government has opened up a new fossil fuel frontier in the midst of a global heatwave, recklessly throwing fuel on the flames of our climate crisis. Wildfires are ravaging the Arctic Circle, while the heat claims more and more deaths around the world. Almost nobody can dismiss the weirdness of the weather in 2018. Even The Sun has run a front page linking this extreme weather to climate change. What’s our Government’s response? Reach for the drills, and get the fossil fuels flowing.
This decision comes hot on the heels of a raft of legislation which stacks the deck in favour of the frackers at the expense of ordinary people. First came the punitive injunction which cracked down on peaceful protest. Now, the Government has opened two public consultations on planning for fracking, which threaten to make permission to raising a rig about as easy as building a garden shed, while taking decision making power away from local communities. Here in the Green Party, we’ll be responding with our own independent consultation, asking affected communities how fracking will affect their lives, and what people really think about the future of fracking in Britain.
It’s hard to overstate how short-sighted Government’s policy is, especially when the planet is so evidently tipping into full scale climate emergency. While fossil fuels get the green light, renewable alternatives are being shut down. While airports are being expanded, our railways are falling into absolute chaos. Despite an air pollution epidemic, the Government is still intent on road building. You have to wonder what scale of disaster is required before this Government starts taking the threat of climate change seriously. Until then, the people’s fight against fracking continues, and I’ll be stood alongside our bold and brilliant climate movement here in the UK. The moral case is unanswerable, the science is overwhelming, and public opinion is nearly unanimous. The Government’s position on this is unsustainable. Together, I know we can stop the drills yet.