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Church blesses fracking – with caveats

The Church of England – which is at the centre of an Anglican communion of more than 85 million people around the world – has issued a briefing paper that addresses shale gas and fracking in the UK.

The 10-page report concludes that ‘shale gas is a potentially useful element in achieving a transition to a much lower carbon economy.  The government’s public commitment to reducing the UK’s carbon emissions under COP21 provides a context which should ensure that shale gas is not treated as an alibi for ducking carbon reduction commitments.’

However, ‘shale gas developments must not distract or delay efforts to expand low-carbon renewable energy, especially community-owned energy in the UK, towards achieving the long-term 2050 carbon reduction targets.’

The report goes on to say that ‘If such a possible limited role for exploiting shale gas in the UK is accepted, the next question is whether the impact of fracking can be minimised satisfactorily’ with regard to affected communities, the landscape and the environment.

To ensure this, and ‘having concluded that shale gas may be a useful component in transitioning to a low carbon economy, we are persuaded that a robust planning and regulatory regime could be constructed,’ the briefing paper says.

The paper, jointly signed by the Church of England’s Chair, Mission and Public Affairs Council and the Bishop of Salisbury, who chairs the Church’s Environment Working Group, was commissioned ‘to help understand a “live”, and contentious issue about which there are many strong feelings on different sides, both in the church and the wider community.’  The Church Commissioners and their Ethical Investment Advisory Group were also involved.

Commenting on the paper, IOGP Executive Director Gordon Ballard, says ‘We welcome the Church of England’s recognition that fracking for natural gas in the UK is “a cleaner option than some alternatives” and acknowledge the recommendation that ‘ongoing research and monitoring” should be integral to shale gas exploration and development wherever it takes place.’

More information on shale technology is available here.

The Church of England’s briefing paper on shale gas and fracking is available here:

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