Claire's blog

Unions backing fracking... or are they?

GMB stands alone in support for fracking

The GMB's criticism of the Labour Party’s 2016 conference decision to ban shale gas fracking has been widely quoted in the press, with an assumption that this is representative of the wider trade union position.

The GMB’s Scotland secretary, Gary Smith, said it was “not ethical” and an “abdication of our environmental and moral responsibilities” to become increasingly reliant on gas from dictatorial regimes overseas (although most of our gas imports come from Norway).

Yet the GMB is the only major UK trade union to actively support fracking in the UK, which is opposed by Unite, Unison, PCS, Prospect, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), among others, as part of their wider commitments to tackle climate change, move away from fossil fuels, and protect the environment (see details below)

Unions have not only taken on board the climate change impacts of shale gas industry, but recognise the serious issues for worker safety and doubts over the industry’s claims of a jobs bonanza.

A new runway without crashing climate targets? Dream on...

In July last year, Howard Davies, chair of the Airports Commission, wrote a official letter to Lord Deben, reassuring him that Heathrow expansion would not prevent the UK meeting our legally binding climate targets. The letter explains that "carbon emissions were treated as a constraint, not an output". Or as the more cynical among us might translate this, the answer was predetermined and then numbers inserted into the model that would give the the right answer, realistic or not.

Fracking, UK climate targets and post-truth politics

Having waited for months for the government to publish a statutory report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on the impact of fracking on the UK's legally binding climate targets, campaigners suspected that it was not favourable to the government's "all-out for shale" policy. Some of the more cynical among us may have expected it on 6th July, on the day of the even-more-long-awaited Chilcot report into the Iraq war. In fact the report was finally released on the morning of 7th July.