I wish to inform the House that the Government is today laying the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) advice on the compatibility of UK onshore petroleum with meeting the UK’s carbon budgets, as well as the Government’s response to that advice[i]. These are being laid before Parliament in line with Section 49 of the Infrastructure Act 2015.
The CCC’s report mainly focuses on shale gas extraction. The Government welcomes the CCC’s conclusion that shale gas is compatible with carbon budgets if certain conditions are met. We believe that our strong regulatory regime and determination to meet our carbon budgets mean those conditions can and will be met.
The Government is committed to exploring the UK’s shale gas potential whilst maintaining the very highest safety and environmental standards. We are confident that the existing regulators have the right powers and flexibility to ensure that emissions are minimised. We will of course continue to work with the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Oil and Gas Authority to ensure this continues to be the case as the new shale industry grows.
Exploring and developing our shale gas and oil resources could potentially bring substantial benefits and help meet our objectives for secure energy supplies, economic growth and lower carbon emissions. We therefore welcome that the CCC shares the Government’s view that shale gas could make a useful contribution to UK energy supplies.
We do not yet know the full scale of the UK’s shale resources nor how much can be extracted technically or economically. There is therefore a clear need to seize the opportunity now to determine the full potential for shale development in the UK and we support the industry’s work to bring forward exploratory wells.
Having access to clean, safe and secure supplies of natural gas for years to come is a key requirement if the UK is to successfully transition to a low-carbon economy. The UK was the first country to set legally binding carbon budgets, and this Government is fully committed to them, as shown by the announcement of the fifth carbon budget level last week. We need gas — the cleanest fossil fuel — to support our climate change efforts by providing flexibility and helping us to reduce the use of high-carbon coal.
Section 49 of the Infrastructure Act requires the Secretary of State, when laying the CCC report before Parliament, to lay either regulations providing for the right to use deep-level land to cease to have effect, or a report explaining the reasoning for not doing so. The Government response explains why the Government believes that our strong regulatory regime will meet the conditions set out by the CCC, and therefore further regulations are not required. This meets the Government’s obligations under the Infrastructure Act. The Act requires a further report to be provided by the CCC in April 2021.
[i] These are available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/committee-on-climate-change-report-and-government-response-on-the-compatibility-of-uk-onshore-petroleum-with-meeting-the-uks-carbon-budgets
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords