The government’s fracking proposals would release the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as almost 300 million new cars, fatally undermining ministers’ obligation to tackle the escalating climate crisis, according to new research.
Analysis by the Labour party shows that the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere if the government’s plans go ahead would be the same as the lifetime emissions of 286 million cars – or 29 new coal-fired power plants.
The findings come as ministers’ efforts to kickstart their fracking proposals face growing resistance, with defeat in the courts, fierce local objections and opposition from Labour and Tory councils alike.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was in Lancashire on Saturday to join the anti-fracking campaign in the region, said a future Labour government would ban fracking “once and for all”.
“The Conservatives’ fracking plans will damage our environment and fly in the face of community opposition,” he said. “There is a clear alternative to fracking. Clean, renewable energy is the future of our economy and will create more than 400,000 jobs as part of Labour’s green industrial revolution.”
Concerns about drilling flared in the run-up to Christmas when energy company Cuadrilla was forced to pause operations near Blackpool three times after drilling caused small earthquakes that breached government safety limits.
Several local authorities – including London, Manchester, Leeds, Wakefield, Hull and York – have expressed opposition to fracking. There is also opposition from many Tories. In Westminster, almost two dozen Tory MPs are reported to be against fracking and willing to “destroy the government’s majority” if it tries to weaken planning laws.
Several Tory-run local authorities – including Derby, Dorset and Nottinghamshire – are fiercely opposed to a change in planning proposals, which would mean companies could drill test sites without applying for permission.
Labour, which has vowed to oversee “an economic revolution to tackle the climate crisis”, says on top of the widespread opposition, the government’s plans would produce huge amounts of greenhouse gases, wrecking any chance of the UK complying with its Paris climate obligations.
Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s shadow energy secretary, said: “Fracking can’t be part of the solution to climate change. These figures demonstrate the debt we owe to the communities and campaigners who have fought back against fracking and prevented the Tories from pushing our country off a climate cliff.”
The government remains committed to fracking. Ministers argue fracked gas will play a vital part of the UK’s energy mix and will create thousands of jobs.
The plans came in for criticism from one of the world’s leading climate scientists last year. James Hansen, who is known as the father of climate science, accused ministers of aping Donald Trump and ignoring scientific evidence. He said the industry would contribute to climate breakdown and warned future generations would judge ministers harshly.
Earlier this month the plans received a setback in the high court when it ruled the government’s fracking guidelines were unlawful as they did not take into account the impact on climate change.
Long-Bailey added: “The government needs to realise that it’s time to change course and ban fracking before it’s too late.”