By Matthew Barrett
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At the climate talks currently being conducted in Doha, there is a radical proposal that, it seems possible, may be accepted by many of the major developed countries in the world. The UN talks look like they will conclude with an agreement that developed countries will compensate developing countries for the impact of climate change.
The principle of compensating the third world has been discussed since 1992's climate talks in Rio, but many industrial Western countries, especially the United States, have resisted such an idea. The US appears ready to consent to it this time, because the wording of the proposal caps compensation payouts by wealthy countries at a nonetheless-eye-watering €100bn a year.
Our man in Doha, Gregory Barker, pictured as part of the British delegation, right, has been keeping followers updated on Twitter. By all accounts, delegates at the Qatari capital's conference centre are extremely tired, and the talks have frustratingly stretched on for longer than expected, having been supposed to have finished last night. It is still unclear what the final outcome of the talks will be, or if the radical plan will finally be adopted, but the signs so far point to definite progress.
The effect of the resultant climate change bill on Britain is not likely to be a happy one; countries have signed up to a further reduction in carbon emissions, which usually means an increase in fuel prices for British consumers, a less competitive atmosphere in which to do business, and so on.
However, there is a rather important story in today's newspapers: the potential amount of shale gas we have in this country is larger than we thought. As the Times (£) reports:
"The British Geological Survey (BGS) is carrying out an independent analysis of shale gas reserves which it plans to publish in the new year. It is understood that the BGS will estimate that the 1,000 square kilometres covered by the Bowland Basin to the east of Blackpool contains 300 trillion cubic feet of gas, equivalent to 17 times the remaining known reserves in the North Sea. A year ago Cuadrilla published an estimate of 200 trillion cubic feet for the Bowland Basin. At the time the company said that the figure was conservative. But many experts dismissed it as unrealistic."
The Chancellor announced in his Autumn Statement, that there would be tax breaks to incentivise shale gas developers, which would result in at least 30 new gas-fired power plants being built by 2030. As a result, our domestic energy bills are likely to come down, in time. We will also be less dependent on unreliably available and unethically owned gas from Russia and the Middle East. As Lord (Nigel) Lawson writes in today's Daily Mail:
"Until now, the West has been heavily dependent for its supplies of oil and gas on an unstable Middle East and an unreliable Russia. Crucially, all that has changed because gas and oil-bearing shale is scattered throughout the world — including in Britain. This has shaken up the old world order — and the global balance of power is being permanently transformed before our eyes. … We are living in an era when good news is thin on the ground. The shale gas revolution is the exception: a game-changing piece of good news, both economically and geo-politically, both for this country and for the world."