On the very same day in October that the EU ratified the Paris Climate Agreement, the UK government took the bizarre, contradictory and two-faced decision to overrule the Lancashire County Council decision opposing fracking at the Preston New Road site. In siding with developers against people and the environment, it showed that ‘taking back control’ in the UK meant the Tory government taking back control from local people.
Greens, meanwhile passed my emergency motion at Autumn Conference making the campaign against fracking a priority. We recognise that fracking is the front line in the struggle to combat climate change. All the scientific advice we have says that we should not be seeking to extract new fossil fuel supplies but instead should be keeping it in the ground.
It has been particularly inspiring, then, to see Greens across the North of England working alongside local communities. There are some great examples: Cllr Gina Dowding, a strong voice on fracking on North Yorkshire County Council (which ignored overwhelming objections and approved an application near the village of Kirby Misperton); and Tina Rothery, one of the ‘Anti Fracking Nanas’, who has been unwisely taken on in the courts for trespass by fracking firm Cuadrilla. There are thousands of Greens who have joined marches, written letters and taken the message to their own councils. In August, I spoke at an anti-fracking rally in York joining hundreds of ‘protectors’ (not just protestors) from across the North of England who showed opposition goes way beyond Nimbyism, regularly chanting: “No Fracking in Yorkshire! No Fracking in Lancashire! No Fracking anywhere!”
In the latest Green victory on fracking, an amendment to the Kirklees Local Plan was passed at in October, meaning fracking proposals must demonstrate that they will have net zero impact on climate change. Of course, we don’t want fracking applications in Kirklees, but we now have a policy that helps link action to address climate change with directly protecting local communities. It is an approach that could easily be adopted by other councils looking to prevent fracking.
With the government ignoring local views on fracking, we now enter in earnest the nonviolent direct action phase of opposition – familiar territory for Green campaigners. Bring it on?