MP for Cambridge: Fracking and Climate Change

Julian Huppert 2 February 2015

Climate change is the most dangerous threat facing the world today. The message from scientists could hardly be starker – greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced massively, or else generations ahead will pay the price for poor decisions made by the powerful today. Concerted action is needed and it’s needed now.

One key issue in the UK debate right now is the role of fracking – extracting gas from rock. Some say it will help us reduce emissions. I think they’re wrong. True, fracking is better than coal. But it’s far worse than renewables and other low-carbon energy sources which is what we need to be using.

There’s also lots of uncertainty about the effects of fracking: How would it impact the local environment? How much water would it use up? Would it inadvertently squeeze out the renewable energy sector? Before we know the answers, we shouldn’t be rushing to a new form of energy extraction.

Last week I led a group of MPs in Parliament to oppose legislation to permit fracking. I fought nail and tooth to stop it happening. One amendment I put forward proposed fracking should not be allowed to happen unless the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), a group of experts most of us trust, say it would reduce emissions. I don’t think it would, but I want the experts to have the final say.

I did manage to force Ministers to give a key concession saying fracking would only be allowed if either it does reduce carbon emissions or the Energy Secretary at the time, whoever that may be, produces a written statement explaining to the House why she or he is allowing fracking to go ahead despite the consequences. It’s an important win, but doesn’t go as far as I’d wanted.

What is deeply frustrating is we could have gone much further and got much better results. But Labour, who have previously nodded to climate change, showed no commitment when it came down to it. They abstained on a key amendment I put forward which would have forced a moratorium on fracking – and so I lost that fight.

Climate change is too big a threat to ignore. We need action now. As the MP for Cambridge, I have consistently fought for our environment. In the last five years, we’ve more than doubled the amount of energy coming from renewables, created the world’s first green investment bank and insulated millions of homes. That is a great achievement, but we need to do more – we cannot delay.