The research, commissioned by the Co-operative and conducted by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, concluded that extracting and burning just 20% of the identified reserves under Lancashire would result in emissions of more than 2bn tonnes of CO2.

That amount would represent some 15% of the Government’s greenhouse gas emissions budget until 2050.

The report also highlights the cost of extraction, investment it is concerned would be diverted away from renewable energy sources. It says that up to £32bn would be required to extract the shale gas and convert it to electricity. The same amount of money would pay for approximately 2,300 large offshore wind turbines, which, says the report, is roughly enough for the UK to meet its renewable energy targets.

Co-op head of social goals Paul Monaghan described the situation as a “dash for gas” which he said was “incompatible with the UK’s carbon reduction targets”.

He continued: “It is shocking how little scrutiny and thoughtful consideration has been demonstrated by the UK Government and its environmental agencies when it comes to shale gas. Not least because, evidence is now emerging which indicates that gas derived from shale may have a significantly greater carbon footprint than previously thought, seriously questioning whether it can play any role in the transition to a low-carbon economy. The calls from ‘big gas’ for the abandonment of renewables targets must be rebuffed, and here is the science to do just that.”

Professor of energy and climate change at the Tyndall Centre, University of Manchester, Kevin Anderson said: “As the Government’s Committee on Climate Change make clear, for the UK to meet its binding carbon targets, electricity needs to be decarbonised by 2030 with domestic heating having moved from high carbon gas to low-carbon electricity.

“With so little time to meet these commitments, there is no meaningful emissions allowance available for shale gas. Moreover, pursuing shale gas electricity risks displacing urgently required investments in genuinely low carbon energy supply. Consequently, the Government faces a difficult choice; to lead a new and low-carbon energy revolution or stick with high carbon fossil fuels, forgo its emission targets and relinquish its hard won international reputation on climate change.”

Will Parsons

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