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The community blockade in Balcombe, 6th August 2013. Photo: Push Europe via Flickr.
The community blockade in Balcombe, 6th August 2013. Photo: Push Europe via Flickr.
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Anti-fracking activists - engage with us in Bonn climate talks

Jamie Gorman

4th June 2014

UN climate negotiations get under way today in Bonn, Germany - and they offer a key opportunity for campaigners to gear up their fight against fracking, writes Jamie Gorman, because to stabilize the Earth's climate, the gas must stay deep underground.

Anti-fracking and climate campaigners share a common vision of a just, sustainable, clean and fracking-free future.

United Nations climate negotiations resume today for a ten-day session in Bonn, Germany, until 15th June, and will prepare the ground for discussions by heads-of-state in Lima at the end of this year.

Governments are meeting because they urgently need to agree on equitable and just actions that tackle climate change, leading up to a new legally binding agreement on climate change, including emissions reduction targets.

The talks now under way will focus on contributions to the Kyoto agreement, but also on that new agreement for post-2020 climate action. Governments have set a target to deliver that agreement in Paris in November 2015.

Keeping the gas underground

This is a process that anti-fracking activists should know about, and engage in, because the climate talks give us the chance stop fracking and keep the gas underground where it belongs.

Campaigning for our governments to take ambitious action on climate change also makes it harder for them to get away with promoting fracking at home.

But climate activists also have to be involved in the fight against fracking - because if large scale fracking and other 'extreme energy' exploitation goes ahead around the world, the climate battle is lost.

'Fracking' is a process of extracting shale gas or coal bed methane through a dangerous and highly polluting mining process. All over Europe and around the world communities are resisting fracking and calling for sustainable and just alternatives like community owned renewable power.

Anti-fracking and climate campaigners share a common vision of a just, sustainable, clean and fracking-free future. Working together we can achieve this - and here's four reasons why we are stronger together.

1. Fracking and solutions to climate change are incompatible!

If governments want to take the urgent challenge of climate change seriously, and reduce emissions in line with science and equity, then fracking is not an option.

Burning more gas, from more and more extreme sources like shale or coal bed methane will prevent governments from meeting key climate targets.

Shale gas and coal bed methane are not 'bridging fuels', as gas industry marketing departments try to convince us. Liquid 'natural' gas from fracking needs to be supercooled and liquefied for shipping and the energy needed for that - as well as all the potential leaks from fracking wells - makes the carbon footprint of fracking worse than coal.

As Bill McKibben says, "This is not a bridge - it's just a rickety pier stretching further out into the fossil fuel lake."

So effective campaigning against fracking makes an strong climate agreement more achievable, by holding governments back from committing to this dead end, high-carbon technology.

2. Fracking distracts us from real solutions to climate change

Fracking is a dirty distraction from what our governments should really be supporting: local communities finding sustainable solutions to their energy needs.

When our governments support fracking they are supporting 'business as usual' for the big oil and gas companies. Instead they should be supporting communities to develop energy projects that put energy in the hands of the people.

They must also support the development of the key technologies that will bring down the cost of renewable energy in the future - and allow us to redesign global, national and local energy systems so that they no longer depend on fossil fuels at any stage.

4. Unburnable carbon

If governments are to prevent 'runaway' climate change then global temperatures will need to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The emissions reductions that governments are urgently required to make in order to prevent that means that 80% of estimated fracking reserves will need to remain in the ground as 'unburnable carbon'. Investing in exploring new forms of dirty energy such as fracking simply adds to these unburnable reserves.

The International Energy Agency predicts that the exploitation of unburnable carbon from shale would put CO2 emissions on a "trajectory consistent with a probably temperature rise of more than 3.5 degrees Celsius in the long term".

So the legally binding climate agreement which is expected in 2015 will - if governments are serious about safeguarding the global climate - block governments from being able to exploit shale gas and coal bed methane.

This may be made explicit, or more likely implicit - as any effective carbon emissions limits would simple render 'extreme fossil fuels' with high economic costs and big carbon footprints unviable.

4. Investment funds are finite

With so much to lose on this speculation game by the gas companies, it's clear that every pound invested in fracking is a pound not invested in the real renewable energy solutions that are urgently needed.

Moreover special treatements and subsidies given by governments to the fracking industry means that fracking will trigger billions more of public money to be spent on wasted infrastructure and other costs.

The cost of inaction and investment in false solutions will be huge. And this makes it essential to invest now in real solutions to climate change -like renewable energy, energy efficiency, low-carbon transport, sustainable farming, protecting forests and peatlands, and supporting community-led reforestation.

Investment capital is limited - and we must take care to use it productively for a sustainable future, not in 'blind alley' carbon intensive technologies - like fracking - that only contribute to the problem, and will cost investors dear in years and decades to come



Jamie Gorman is a campaigner with Young Friends of the Earth Europe.

Follow Young Friends of the Earth Europe at the UN climate intersessionals in Bonn for further updates and analysis:



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