It was great to hear that Derbyshire County Council’s planning committee voted so decisively to oppose Ineos’s plans to start exploring for shale gas at Marsh Lane.
We understand this was largely after weighing up the environmental and traffic impacts on the local area against the wider benefits to the nation of this single step in developing a shale gas industry.
It is important to recognise that whether there are wider benefits at all is hotly disputed.
Planners are obliged to give great weight to the government’s view on these. Thus it is very important that this view is based on objective assessment of the best available evidence. Sadly, it is not.
The Independent Committee on Climate Change has advised the Government that ‘emissions from shale gas production must be accommodated within UK carbon budgets’ – along with a number of statements that show it doubts this can happen. Since then, the Government has published an emissions reduction plan for the whole economy that fails to meet those ‘carbon budgets’. Its view remains that shale gas could ‘help meet our objectives for secure energy supplies, economic growth and lower carbon emissions’ despite abandoning that industry being one of the easiest measures it could take to reduce emissions.
As for energy security, that will not be achieved in a world disrupted by increasingly extreme weather. Lowering demand for gas, by supporting renewable energy and insulating more buildings properly, would significantly help. Yet the Government has reined back on many measures that would achieve this.
The decision on Marsh Lane has now been referred to a Government Planning Inspector. So there is a difficult battle ahead over these plans. There is also the wider and crucial one to defeat this damaging industry altogether.
On behalf of Sheffield Climate Alliance