The government must now focus on real solutions to the energy crisis including a street-by-street home insulation programme.
Re-imposing the fracking ban is a “fantastic victory for common sense”, campaigners said, as Rishi Sunak reversed the recent green light for the controversial energy source.
The UK prime minister’s official spokesman said Mr Sunak was committed to the effective ban on fracking set out in the 2019 general election manifesto, after he was pressed on the issue at his first Prime Minister’s Questions.
The PM told the Commons he “stands by” the manifesto, which said the Conservative party would not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely.
It had appeared at the beginning of the year that more than a decade of controversy over fracking in England was ending, with news that the only two shale wells in the country were to be abandoned.
But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted calls for a rethink, and Conservative former prime minister Liz Truss lifted the ban during her brief spell in office, as she argued it would strengthen the country’s energy supply.
The move drew widespread criticism from environmentalists, opposition parties and some Tory MPs who had potential fracking areas in their constituencies.
Chaotic scenes around a vote brought by Labour on the issue last week contributed to Ms Truss’s downfall.
On Wednesday, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas quizzed Mr Sunak in the Commons on whether he would reverse the green light to fracking given by Liz Truss, pointing to his pledge to fix her mistakes and uphold the 2019 manifesto.
“So, if he is a man of his word, will he start by reversing the green light she gave to fracking since it’s categorically not been shown to be safe, and instead maintain the moratorium that was pledged in that very manifesto that he promised to uphold?”
The Prime Minister replied: “I have already said I stand by the manifesto on that.”
Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Danny Gross said: “This is a fantastic victory for common sense, the environment and local communities across the country who have stood up to the threat of fracking.
“The government must now focus on real solutions to the energy crisis including a street-by-street home insulation programme and developing the UK’s huge potential of onshore wind and solar energy production.”
The shift back against fracking was also welcomed by green Tories.
Sam Hall, director of the Conservative Environment Network said: “It is unpopular, and few communities would approve fracking projects locally, meaning little or no gas would be extracted, despite the high political cost.
“Instead, the government should focus on building more cheap and popular renewables, including onshore wind and solar where there is local support.
“These technologies will bring down bills, improve energy sovereignty and reduce emissions.”
But shadow climate and net zero secretary Ed Miliband said the Tories could not be trusted on fracking.
“Last week Rishi Sunak voted against Labour’s fracking ban, but this week his spokespeople tell us he is in favour of the temporary moratorium on fracking in the Conservative manifesto.
“Whatever their latest position, the truth is that the Tories have shown that they cannot be trusted on the issue of fracking.
“The only way to guarantee that fracking will be banned for good is to elect a Labour government.”
Emily Beament is the PA environment correspondent. Martina Bet is a reporter with PA.