Hundreds of you have written to me making it clear you oppose the Government’s plans for fracking. The government have proposed that shale gas exploration should be treated as permitted development. This change would mean that such exploration would not need planning permission and I believe would make fracking much more likely. I am strongly opposed to these proposals and am proud to be the MP for a constituency that cares so deeply about the environment. I attended the Westminster Hall debate about fracking on the 13th September and was unable to make a speech, however I wanted to share with you the speech I would have given if I was able to:
Climate change is the biggest danger facing our planet. If we do not move beyond fossil fuels to cleaner and more renewable forms of energy then we are giving up on tackling this issue. I am beyond perplexed that the government is wasting its time and energy on creating plans not only to make it easier for fossil fuels to be developed, but to override the will of local communities.
I understand that in an absolutely best-case scenario, fuel that is extracted from fracking may have a lower carbon footprint than fuel imported from overseas. This argument however misses the crucial point that fossil fuels are fossil fuels wherever they come from and unless we make a permanent move towards low-carbon, renewable energy we are putting the future of our planet at risk. My constituents want their government to fund and prioritise technologies that will provide this type of energy. That is why for months I have been looking into projects local to my constituency such as the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, a project which could generate clean electricity for more than 150,000 homes. I was disappointed to learn that the government have dropped investment for this project based on short-term costs. The government claimed that a tidal lagoon is not commercially viable, but this misses the point. Government investment is needed precisely because is not yet commercially viable. We need the government to bring down the cost of technology that will help tackle climate change and move us away from non-renewable high carbon fuels. Unfortunately the government is spending time making it easier for companies to pull fossil fuels out of the ground.
We also need to look at whether we should be encouraging another drain on our water supplies. To extract fuel, fracking uses high pressure water to create cracks in deep-rock formations through which fuels then flow. It’s likely that we are going to see hotter summers and more demand for water. We cannot yet be 100% sure of the impact that fracking will have on our water supply but I believe we need to think very carefully about our current water usage and whether we want to encourage a potentially huge amount of water to extract fossil fuels when, again, we should be looking at renewable energies.
We must also consider that the Government is overruling local communities who often be concerned about fracking. Indeed there are many questions that are yet to be answered about the long term effects of fracking on the environment and the government should not be forcing communities to take part in this experiment. Indeed, in July 2018, a Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee report said the Government’s proposed changes to the planning regime “would result in a significant loss to local decision-making”. At a time when many feel that important decisions are made about them, without their input, the government shouldn’t be forcing communities to endure fracking when they have made it clear that it is not welcome.
Finally, I want to again stress the importance of the UK tackling climate change. If we want to leave behind a habitable planet for future generations we need to leave fossil fuels in the ground. In 2016 the Committee on Climate change says that the use of gas in the UK must sharply decline by 2030 and said that fracking on a significant scale is not compatible with the UK’s climate change targets unless three key tests are met. These tests concern the safety, regulation, and monitoring. If the government’s response to this is to make the planning process easier for fracking to take place then I do not trust this government to meet those tests. I hope that the government will consider the points that members have made today and will rethink these proposals. The environment secretary recently promised a “green revolution”. I fear that the government is offering only green rhetoric and the same old resolutions.