This paper analyses the best available technical, scientific and engineering literature on the risks and opportunities posed by shale gas, and what policy environment could maximise the opportunity and minimise the risk. It also analyses China’s current policies and practice to understand whether the conditions for greener growth are in place.
We conclude that many of the environmental risks shale gas poses are manageable, and amenable to conventional environmental law and policy tools. Its development could in principle offer significant net environmental benefits if the gas produced permanently replaces coal and helps set China on a pathway to a renewable-dominated energy system. The greater impediment is political, hinging on whether China has the political will and capacity to dramatically cap coal generation, invest in renewable energy and enforce strong environmental regulations and targets.
We therefore emerge from our analysis with a healthy dose of scepticism about unconventional gas greening China’s growth: truly making it work requires a broader set of practical commitments to sustainability, pollution control and low-carbon energy.
8 June 2015 - Two characters from the conclusion of the Mandarin version were replaced, having being translated incorrectly.