Rishi Sunak moves to reinstate fracking ban in UK

In one of his first moves as Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has moved to overturn last week’s vote by MPs to lift a long-standing ban on fracking in the UK.

Rishi Sunak moves to reinstate fracking ban in UK

Image: HM Treasury CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. https://www.flickr.com/photos/hmtreasury/52112757554/

With the Government still undergoing a substantial rejig following the resignation of Liz Truss as the shortest-serving Prime Minister, new party leader Rishi Sunak has already moved to undo some of the decisions that led to Truss’ resignation.

In one of his first official moves as Prime Minister, Sunak told MPs at the dispatch box that he would honour the Conservative’s 2019 election manifesto, including a decision to uphold the ban on fracking in the UK.

Under Liz Truss last week, the UK Government defeated a Labour motion that forced a vote on whether fracking should be banned in the UK.

Labour introduced the motion on 19 October, 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 saw the Conservative Government abandon one of the key pledges of its victorious 2019 election manifesto.

Despite voting against the Labour motion to ban fracking, Sunak told MPs that he would “stand by the manifesto” on fracking.

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.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament earlier, Sunak responded to a question from Green MP Caroline Lucas as to whether he would overturn last week’s decision and reinstate the fracking moratorium.

“I have already said I stand by the manifesto on that,” Sunak said, while also saying that he was “proud” of the Government’s Environment Bill. Sunak also noted that the nation would deliver on its commitments made at COP26 and continue towards the net-zero target for 2050.

As the fracking motion from Labour emerged, the now former Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg proposed that the fracking ruling be amended to require public consultations in order to approve or reject local projects. It remains unclear what the official Government ruling on fracking will be in this regard. The Government also confirmed that its economic plan to be unveiled in the next fiscal update would be pushed back to 17 November.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has recommended keeping the ban in place to support an orderly net-zero transition. However, both Sunak and Truss said during the brief leadership campaign they would lift the ban in communities where there was local support, using the energy price crisis as an argument in favour of the move.

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