Students protest fracking and Barclays in Alex Square

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Photograph: SCAN Lancaster University

Wielding bright banners and anti-fracking literature, Lancaster university protestors, and People & Planet activists demonstrated today outside the Alexandra Park branch of Barclays bank to contest its involvement in the controversial fossil fuel technology.

It’s a controversial issue for the area and the country, with the recent government move to overturn the decision of Lancashire council and allow Cuadrilla to begin fracking sparking widespread condemnation from Labour, the Greens, and the Liberal Democrats.

And it appears public support for the policy has plummeted to a new low of 17% in a recently released poll by the Guardian, just as the same survey showed public awareness of the technique has reached its highest level recorded.

Still, new communities minister Savid Jahid insists the policy is worthwhile, as he made clear in a statement defending his department’s decision to overrule the local council

“Shale gas has the potential to power economic growth, support 64,000 jobs, and provide a new domestic energy source, making us less reliant on imports. We will take the big decisions that matter to the future of our country as we build an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few

SCAN spoke to Harry, a protestor and head of People and Planet, to find out more.

Last year research showed Barclays was one of the most prolific banks for investing in the most destructive fossil fuel industries in the world. And this is at odds with our climate change targets – we know that we need to leave at least 80% of fossil fuels in the ground to keep global warming below 2 degrees”

We are currently on projection for 2.7 – 3.5 degrees of global warming with current commitments made at the UN COP21, well over the ‘deemed safe limit of 2 degrees’. Yet companies like Barclays are willing to finance fossil fuel extraction projects that lead to severe social and environmental destruction for the poorest communities. Meanwhile, the wealthiest continue to profit from and contribute the greatest emissions per capita

Barclays is directly involved – indeed Harry states it owns 97% of – with Third Energy, a fracking corporation that has come under the spotlights for it’s attempts to expand fracking to North Yorkshire.

Commenting on the success of their planning approval bid, recently approved by North Yorkshire council, Third Energy chief executive Raisk Valand said the company regarded the planning consent “not as a victory, but as a huge responsibility”.

“We will have to deliver on our commitment, made to the committee and to the people of Ryedale, to undertake this operation safely and without impacting on the local environment,”

But this statement was slammed by campaigning group Friends of the Earth, who described it as ‘Barclays foisting its views on a community that doesn’t want it at all. And the protestors in Lancaster agree

In Lancashire over 18,000 people signed a petition to say they don’t want fracking at the Preston new road site compared to just 216 that signed the counter petitions. It was a similar story at Ryedale. But the government continues to push on, disregarding the denied planning permission at the site in Lancashire that occurred at four different planning levels including the county council

“It’s a betrayal of the democracy of councils and communities. Why is the government in power? Because the people put it there. Surely they should listen to the people and climate science?

But the chances of that happening look vanishingly small despite overwhelming public opposition, and although the protest seemed well received with passers-by appearing supportive, the corporation they stood outside seemed to regard it as little more than an irritation. It’s the sheer unaccountable power of these companies that the protest seems to take exception to –

We’ve seen the the Department of Climate Change scrapped, the infrastructure bill passed to allow fracking companies to put literally any chemicals in the ground and now are seeing that the tax payer is probably going to be liable for the costs of any contamination which studies have demonstrated has occurred in the United states

The protestors hope to raise awareness of the process which will soon be kicking in across the nation, and perhaps that’s what’s needed as long as government and business continue to work together to pursue controversial, unpopular and apparently destructive policies.