Government defeats fracking ban vote, turns back on 2019 manifesto pledge

The Conservative Government has defeated a motion tabled by Labour calling for a vote on the ban of fracking in the UK, but a rebellion by a substantial number of Tory MPs has added a further dent to Prime Minister Liz Truss’ precarious leadership position.

Government defeats fracking ban vote, turns back on 2019 manifesto pledge

The UK Government defeated a Labour motion that forced a vote on whether fracking should be banned in the UK late on Wednesday (19 October). However, the move could add further turmoil to the Conservative party, with many voting politicians rebelling against a party-line call to vote against the fracking ban.

Many Conservative MPs rebelled against an unofficial Government line to vote against the ban. Reports suggest Prime Minister Liz Truss was absent from the vote.

Labour introduced the motion on Wednesday, stating that all MPs, regardless of party, should be given the opportunity to cast a vote on whether fracking should be banned in the UK. The motion was defeated by 326 votes to 230, in a move that sees the Conservative Government abandon one of the key pledges of its victorious 2019 election manifesto.

The Conservative Government imposed a moratorium on fracking in 2019 because companies leading extraction projects could not prove their ability to operate below a threshold for tremors they had previously agreed to. The Party’s manifesto also pledged to “not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely”.

The Government has since requested a review of the tremor risks associated with fracking in the build-up to the publication of the Energy Security Strategy earlier this year.

As the motion from Labour emerged, new Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg proposed that the fracking ruling be amended to require public consultations in order to approve or reject local projects.

Truss was vocal in her campaign that she would support fracking in areas where there was public support. However, a poll commissioned by Hanbury Strategy’s Green Unit and conducted by Stack Data Strategy, which polled 1,501 UK adults, found 39% would welcome the inclusion of fracking in the Government’s energy strategy. Support for fracking was stronger among those who voted Conservative than those who voted Labour or Liberal Democrat.

Green Groups such as the Green Alliance have continuously argued that taxpayer money could be wasted on stranded assets by continuing to drill in the North Sea.

Other groups believe that the decision will be at odds with the UK’s efforts to reach net-zero by 2050.

The Government has kick-started a new ‘net-zero review’, with Chris Skidmore MP, who is heading up the review, repeatedly stating that the UK will keep the 2050 date but explore different ways of delivery. However, Skidmore post on Twitter earlier on Wednesday that he would not support the fracking vote.

“As the former Energy Minister who signed Net Zero into law, for the sake of our environment and climate, I cannot personally vote tonight to support fracking and undermine the pledges I made at the 2019 General Election. I am prepared to face the consequences of my decision,” Skidmore posted.

Last year, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) told the UK Government that restrictions on onshore fracking for shale gas must be continued until scientists have a better understanding of its full environmental impact.

With the national net-zero target in mind, the CCC advocated for three ‘tests’ for gas laid out in previous advice briefings. The tests being limiting emissions from fracking; capping gas consumption and offsetting production emissions with in-house reductions, elsewhere in the UK. This latter recommendation is designed to prevent fossil fuel firms from excessively relying on offsetting internationally. This advice was issued prior to the gas crisis.

Earlier this month, Global Energy Monitor assessed the potential lifetime emissions of the largest UK North Sea fields likely to reach final investment decisions and/or gain development consent by the end of 2025. The finding was that these emissions would make delivering the UK’s forthcoming carbon budgets impossible.

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