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Shale gas expansion 'would jeopardise climate commitments'

23 Nov 2011

Researchers at Tyndall Manchester, in partnership with The Co-operative, have updated their assessment of the environmental impact of shale gas in light of new developments in the UK.

The report, commissioned by The Cooperative, updates their January 2011 work. It finds that in the absence of a stringent global emissions cap, large-scale extraction of shale gas cannot be reconciled with the commitments enshrined in the latest international climate change agreement, the Copenhagen Accord (2009).

Carbon dioxide from burning this new source of fossil fuel could take up over a quarter of a global emissions budget that offers a reasonable chance of avoiding 2 degrees Celcius warming. In the UK, if just 20% of the reserves identified under Lancashire were to be extracted and burnt, this would result in emissions of over 2,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, representing around 15% of the Government’s greenhouse gas emissions budget through to 2050.

Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at Tyndall Manchester 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.”

Dr John Broderick, EPSRC Knowledge Transfer Fellow at Tyndall Manchester, will discuss these findings with MPs at Portcullis House on Wednesday 23rd November.