The government will “champion efforts to secure a global agreement on climate change” ahead of crucial negotiations in Paris next year, the Queen has said in her final parliamentary address before the 2015 general election.
However, environmentalists say that while this is a welcome pledge, the proposals to allow fracking developers to drill for shale gas without consent from homeowners show “disregard” for the planet.
The Queen announced her government’s plans to allocate greater resources in the excavation of shale gas, as well as geothermal energy, in the infrastructure bill.
Although not mentioned in her speech, the proposals to redefine trespass law may allow shale companies to mine directly below private property, regardless of given permission. Sir Ian Wood’s independent report on shale gas extraction boasted of an extra £200 billion in potential revenue for the UK economy as a result.
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The government’s commitment to “championing” climate change emission targets was praised. But Ben Stafford, head of public affairs at WWF-UK, said “There is relatively little environmental content in the last Queen’s speech from the government that set out to be the ‘greenest ever’.”
Elsewhere, Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said, “This is the latest salvo in yet another coalition assault on our environment.
“Allowing fracking firms to drill under people’s homes without permission, and scrapping plans to make new houses more energy efficient would show a complete disregard for tackling climate change and protecting the planet.”
The government has also reformed the ‘zero-carbon’ housing commitment it made in 2013. Instead, it is focussing on a carbon offset scheme called Allowable Solutions which some argue will only cost the homeowner more in rising energy bills.
The Renewable Energy Association’s (REA) chief executive Nina Skorupska said, “Energy efficiency and renewable energy means seriously low energy bills – possibly under £300 – from day one. A strong emphasis on Allowable Solutions will see homeowners incur the costs of this new tax.”
Meanwhile Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, added, “If implemented properly, this could lead to investment in local, community energy schemes and drive innovation in clean technology. On the other hand, a weak scheme, that generates little investment that has no connection to the house building which is taking place, would be a deeply disappointing outcome.”
In her speech, the Queen said the government would push for reform of the European Union, with stronger roles for member states and their national parliaments. There was, however, no mention of immigration or the growing Euroscepticism displayed by the electorate.
Elsewhere, there were changes to pensions, which the Queen said will “allow for innovation in the private pensions market to give greater control to employees, extend the ISA and Premium Bond schemes and abolish the savers’ 10p tax rate“.
On the same note, banks will now be forced to provide alternative methods of investment for smaller enterprises that are initially rejected by high street banks. Tracy Ewen, managing director at IGF Invoice Finance, said “Forcing banks to promote alternative lenders when they can’t provide funding themselves is a logical step to help keep the recovery on track.”
Photo: soosalu via Flickr