As someone who was born in Lancashire I am very pleased to be here today in Preston, the epicentre of the battle against fracking in this country.
Greenpeace is proud to stand with you, and we all stand alongside the people of Romania, Hungary, Pennsylvania, and Australia in this global insurgency against shale gas. The front line is here this week.
Eighteen months ago it was at Barton Moss in Greater Manchester. I was there, but whilst I was fighting that battle In was also engaged in another campaign, that was to gain the release from a Russian jail of the Arctic 30; the 28 Greenpeace activists and journalists imprisoned after the ship Arctic Sunrise was seized whilst trying to stop the rush for Arctic oil.
Arctic oil is an extreme fossil fuel which the oil and gas industry are trying exploit as conventional sources peak, despite the clear evidence that burning fossil fuels is causing climate meltdown. It is dangerous, it is unwanted and it is killing the climate. Shale gas is also dangerous, also unwanted and also killing the climate. These two battles as the same battle. Fracking is an extreme fossil fuel in your back yard.
It will industrialise our countryside. It will pollute our air. It could contaminate our water. It will not lower our energy bills. But it will contribute to climate change and how we fight climate change is the defining issue of our time. Will we let the oil and gas companies go to the ends of the earth or tunnel beneath under our homes, in search of more fossil fuels, or will we take a stand here?
We know the answer. We are seeing significant and sustained resistance to fracking across the country. 80% of fracking applications are turned down. 99% of respondents to a Department of Energy and Climate Change poll didn’t want fracking under their homes.
The alternatives are out there; more renewable energy, better insulated houses, cheaper public transport. These solutions are available right now. More are on the way. And as well as beating climate change, they will give us cleaner air, warmer homes and less traffic congestion.
We know from America that when the fracking industry comes to a community, what it leaves behind when it leaves is a toxic ghost town. But when the fracking industry tries to move in and community says no, what you get is something amazing. Barton Moss no longer has a drilling rig, but it does have Barton Moss Community Energy. Balcambe in Sussex does not have a fracking rig, but it is on its way to being Britain’s first solar village.
We can do this. The problems are not technical, it is a question of public will and political will, and I think the public are well ahead of the politicians on this one.
I’ll end by saying this. If Lancashire County Council vote to approve these applications then I have this message for all of you; we will continue to stand with you, at the gates of Preston New Road and Roseacre if necessary.
But if they decide to listen to the people and vote no I say this to Cuadrilla Resources; don’t you dare come back here with another legal challenge. Don’t you dare! And I say this to the government in London, who may be thinking of overturning the decision of this chamber; we may be a long way from the Palace of Westminster, but this is what real democracy looks like. Respect it.
Today I am proud to come from the ‘bleak and desolate north’.