A section on fracking in the EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework has been criticised by campaigners, who claim it contains only recommendations about shale gas extraction and no binding rules.
The European commission’s president José Manuel Barroso said on Wednesday that Europe needed a baseline on environmental rules for shale gas, but added that there would not be new regulation.
EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger admitted that the decision was made thanks to the lobbying efforts of countries like the UK that are looking at fracking, despite green groups and scientists saying there might be environmental and health risks.
“Poland, Lithuania and the UK want to forge ahead in this area”, he said.
Responding to the failed proposals, Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Anna Jones said, “This government likes to boast about the UK having the strictest fracking regulation in the world, yet they’ve defeated EU proposals for proper controls and safeguards.”
Meanwhile Antoine Simon, shale gas campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, added, “Insufficient and non-binding recommendations and monitoring mean fracking will go ahead improperly regulated and local communities will be the ones who suffer. Europe is putting the fox in charge of the hen house.”
The lack of compulsory rules was also criticised by the European Greens. The party’s environment and public health spokesperson Carl Schlyter said that Barroso had “bowed to the pressure of the fossil fuel lobby and its political cheerleaders like David Cameron”.
He added, “Serious proposals on shale gas and fracking would have to include binding measures. This includes compulsory environmental impact assessments (including for exploration), clear separation distances and bans in environmentally-sensitive areas. In failing to regulate, the commission is essentially promoting new, high-risk fossil fuel extraction in Europe.”
However, secretary of State for energy and climate change Ed Davey welcomed the measure.
“The recognition that shale gas has an important role to play in cutting carbon as we move away from coal is also welcome”, he said.
“In the UK, we already have robust regulation in place and we must be careful to avoid delaying this emerging industry by years of debate over regulation that simply duplicates.”
Sustainable investment firm Alliance Trust recently altered its position on unconventional gas, which includes fracking, to a more precautionary view, following concerns raised by clients over the uncertain environmental impact of the industry.
The move will mean that companies with more than 10% of their operations in unconventional gas – shale gas or coal bed methane – will no longer meet the required criteria for investment.