Shale Gas “Evolution”: Is Environmental and Social Certification an Option?

Figure 1. Applicable cross-sector issue areas with shale gas certification. Sources: FSC, PEFC, MCEP/ICMM, IRMA, EO

Guest article by Matthew Bach

Shale Gas Extraction Site. Photograph by Sky Truth, Creative Commons License.

The rise and possible fall of unconventional gas sources in recent years has been widely debated. In this guest posting, I have invited Matthew Bach, of Erasmus University, in The Netherlands, to evaluate the efficacy of certification mechanisms to ensure improved environmental and social performance of the shale gas sector.

There is no other way to put it, shale gas – and especially its extraction – is highly controversial.

Politically, it has pitted supporters and opponents against each other, creating tensions between national and local governments, and generally fostering an atmosphere of animosity and distrust.

Such conflicts have had the unfortunate consequence of precluding something that we sorely need: an inclusive, open and science-based dialogue.

This is all the more essential given the havoc that shale extraction can wreak on our communities and the environment, should it be undertaken haphazardly and without appropriate oversight.

So far, traditional governance approaches have failed to reign in these issues and, with the prospect of shale going global, it is vital to take the bull by the horns and to put in place effective governance systems.

Certification has emerged as a solution that could fill this gap, having successfully engaged with the social and environmental impacts of natural resource exploitation from forestry to mining.

Uncertainty & the need for better governance

Hyperbole is at the heart of the debate over shale gas: for those opposing it, the future of the planet is at stake, while the economy itself hangs in the balance for those in favour. This only complicates an already convoluted picture, in which our knowledge of risks remains imperfect.

How we have been governing shale gas also bears the mark of this uncertainty. Governments —> Read More