Independent activist and ex-diplomat John Ashton CBE will share his recent experiences from the front line of the intensifying struggle over fracking in England at a Parliamentary reception tonight.

The UK’s former climate envoy, who is visiting Edinburgh as a guest of Friends of the Earth Scotland, will talk to cross-party MSPs just days ahead of the SNP debate on the future of fracking at their Party conference. He will also give a public lecture.

He will set out why, since leaving Government in 2012, he has become a vocal critic of the effort to commercialise fracking in England. He will explain why he has come to see successful resistance to unconventional hydrocarbon extraction as crucial for the UK’s response to climate change, for the rebuilding of trust and participation in its democracy, for the effort to build a prosperous, modern economy; and for the wellbeing of local communities.

In addressing these questions he will draw from his work with concerned communities in England, including the recent planning showdown in Lancashire; his high level activities as a climate diplomat; and his knowledge over decades of the government and political processes at Westminster, Brussels and elsewhere.

He will be joined on videolink by Dr Lynn R. Goldman of George Washington University, an epidemiologist and former US Environmental Protection Agency regulator who was closely involved in the public health study which led New York State to ban fracking outright in December 2014.

John Ashton will also be covering these themes in a public lecture in Edinburgh on Thursday 8th October. Beforehand, he will meet representatives from the Broad Alliance, a network of community groups resisting unconventional gas developments across Scotland. He will also visit Grangemouth, the petrochemical plant owned by Ineos, that is planning to exploit shale gas through fracking in Scotland’s central belt.

Mr Ashton's visit comes as pressure on the Scottish Government to ban all forms of unconventional fossil fuel extraction is mounting.

John Ashton said: “I am delighted to have this opportunity to learn at first hand about the debate in Scotland on fracking, underground coal gasification and coal-bed methane. The attempt to commercialise these processes raises fundamental questions about our response to climate change, and about the kind of society we want to build. Scottish people will answer these questions for Scotland. But we will all make better choices if we listen carefully to the voice of affected communities, and if we learn from each other’s experiences across the UK.”

Dr Lynn Goldman said: “Scotland joins the United States and other countries that are carefully considering the complex public health, regulatory and policy issues surrounding fracking. I am pleased to be able to share my experience in evaluating some of the scientific evidence related to fracking, climate change and public health.”

Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “There is worldwide concern about the local and global impacts of unconventional fossil fuels. We are delighted to be able to present experience from outside Scotland to help take forward the debate here. We’re convinced that the evidence of health risks and environment impact will eventually lead to a total ban unconventional fossil fuels in Scotland.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North & Musselburgh is hosting John Ashton CBE and Dr Lynn R. Goldman of George Washington University at a Parliamentary reception at 6pm on Wednesday 8th October 2015. The event will take place the the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel.

2. John Ashton CBE is an independent activist and speaker, and has been a significant voice in the campaign against fracking in Lancashire and other parts of England. He is a member of the Advisory Board of Post-Crash Economics, and a Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics, and at the London University School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). From 2006-12 he was the UK’s chief diplomatic envoy on climate change, in his capacity as Special Representative for Climate Change for three successive UK Foreign Secretaries.

3. Dr. Lynn R. Goldman is a world-renowned epidemiologist, paediatrician, and former EPA regulator. She is currently Dean of the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services and was involved in the New York State public health study on fracking.

4. John Ashton will give a public lecture on the political and economic implications of unconventional gas extraction, including for the response to climate change, at 7.30pm on Thursday 8th October at the University of Edinburgh. Full details: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/fracking-talk

5. Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland's leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups. www.foe-scotland.org.uk