German government moves to ban fracking
On Friday, the German parliament passed legislation that effectively bans hydraulic fracturing after years of debate around the environmental effects of the practice.
The law will still permit some test drilling for scientific purposes, as well as conventional fracking for deep-lying gas, which doesn’t involve extraction from shale. However, state governments and independent experts must give explicit permission for the process to go ahead.
Parliament will review the ban in 2021 under a compromise reached between Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and their coalition partners, the left-wing Social Democrats.
The German public has long been suspicious of fracking and its impacts on drinking water resources, in particular. Neighbouring France has banned the practice outright, while the Netherlands introduced a five-year moratorium on shale exploration last year.
Germany's leaders decided to introduce the fracking ban after oil companies — Exxon Mobil and Wintershall among them — said they would move to seek licenses for exploration fracking projects that had been on hold for five years.
Some critics claim that a five-year ban is not stringent enough, with organisations like Greenpeace protesting the time limit as well as the exemptions for test drilling, saying this could present precedents under which oil companies might continue fracking.
News of the fracking restrictions comes as Berlin’s parliament vows to blacklist investment into companies that are incompatible with the city being “climate neutral” by 2050.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.