Shale gas could provide a secure source of energy for decades without wrecking the environment, according to Lord Deben

Climate advisor urges pressing ahead with fracking

Ministers should press ahead with fracking, the head of the Government's official advisory body on climate change has said.

Lord Deben, the head of the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC),  said that exploiting Britain's reserves of shale gas could provide a secure source of energy for decades without wrecking the environment.

The peer – who, as John Gummer, served as environment secretary in Sir John Major's government – dismissed claims by groups such as Greenpeace that the gas and the chemicals used in fracking could contaminate water supplies and increase carbon emissions.

"It just isn't true that fracking is going to destroy the environment and the world is going to come to an end if you frack. And yet to listen to some people on the green end, that's what they say," he told The Times.

"I'm in favour of it. The carbon budgets have already assumed that we are going to use gas well on through the 2020s and into the 30s. There will be a need for gas (and) much better to have it from us and as soon as we can because I do genuinely think people ought to be worried about the security of our energy supplies."

His intervention comes after Chancellor George Osborne used his Autumn Statement last week to announce a new tax allowance to encourage investment in shale gas that will see tax rates on early profits halved.

It also comes as the CCC advised ministers not to deviate from the UK's greenhouse gas reduction totals for the period 2023-27 – the so-called fourth carbon budget, which will mean reducing emissions by 50 per cent on 1990 levels in 2025.

The CCC said there was no reason to "justify a lowering of ambition" and "if anything, changed circumstances point towards a tightening" of the plan, but did advise it would be premature to recommend further changes until uncertainties at the European Union level had been resolved.

The CCC found low-carbon measures would add around £100 to household bills in 2020, but after that increases associated with the fourth carbon budget would add up to £20 from 2020 to 2030.

The report compared a strategy of reducing emissions through the 2020s with one where action is delayed until the 2030s.

It showed significant savings from early action, including over £100bn in present value terms, assuming that the gas price remains at the current level, with much higher savings in a world with a high gas price.

The only situation where early action would be more costly is if there were to be a combination of a low carbon price and low fossil fuel prices.

Lord Deben said: "This report shows the clear economic benefits of acting to cut emissions through the 2020s. This provides insurance against the increased costs and risks of climate-related damage and rising energy bills that would result from an alternative approach to reduce and delay action.

"While it is essential to understand affordability and competitiveness impacts associated with the budget, the evidence suggests that these are relatively small and manageable.

"The Government should confirm the budget as a matter of urgency. This would remove the current uncertainly and poor investment climate. It would provide a boost to the wide range of investors who stand ready to invest in low-carbon technologies."

The carbon budgets act as markers towards the Climate Change Act's target for the UK to reduce its emissions by at least 80 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050.

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "The UK takes its obligations under the Climate Change Act to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 extremely seriously.

“The Committee's advice has an important role in the fourth carbon budget review and we agree with them that it is important to make a final decision as quickly as possible. We will consider the CCC's advice carefully as part of our work on the review, which will be published in the New Year."

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