JUDGES at an internationally-recognised tribunal have claimed that governments and industry have failed in their obligations to protect the public from the impacts of fracking.

The Rome-based Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) – an independent, civil society human rights hearing – said the process contributed to climate change and involved “massive violations” of human rights.

In its interim opinion it said the industry “has failed to fulfil its legal and moral obligations” and governments have generally “failed in their responsibility to regulate the industry” to protect people, communities and nature.

The PPT hearings, which were held online last month, heard evidence about the impact of fracking on the environment, people’s lives and on communities.

The panel of judges come from countries including the UK, Australia, Spain, Italy, Mexico and India and this interim opinion is not its final judgement, which is expected in the autumn. However, it may indicate the judges’ direction of thought.

They said: “The evidence clearly demonstrates that the processes of fracking contribute substantially to anthropogenic harm, including climate change and global warming, and involve massive violations of a range of substantive and procedural human rights and the rights of nature.

“Thus, the industry has failed to fulfil its legal and moral obligations. The evidence also shows that governments have, in general, failed in their responsibility to regulate the industry so as to protect people, communities and nature. In addition, they have failed to act promptly and effectively to the dangers of climate change that fracking represents.”

PPTs cannot compel people to attend their hearings, give evidence or to enforce a judgement.

However, the hearing into the Bhopal disaster, which saw more than 500,000 people exposed to toxic gases in a leak from a Union Carbide plant in India, led to the adoption of the Charter on Industrial Hazards and Human Rights.

Earth Law Alliance director, Lisa Mead and Dr Michelle Maloney, of the Australian Earth Laws Alliance, said: “Our hope is that this tribunal will acknowledge the inherent wisdom in recognising in law the intrinsic rights of nature and of ecosystems to exist, to thrive, to regenerate and to evolve, thus adding to the growing conviction that such a fundamental, systemic change may be the only thing that can save us in our darkest hour.”

Andy Gheorghiu, from campaign group Food and Water Europe, added the findings confirmed that “fracking and the industry and governments behind this global frenzy is a threat for us all”.