Cumbria County Council confirm it will re-examine heavily-criticised plans for the UK’s first deep coal mine in over 30 years.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed in January that Government would not ‘call in’ the decision under planning laws, in spite of greenhouse gas targets.
After significant backlash by critics across local community organisations, green organisations, as well as the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and even MPs from the Conservative party, the county council has announced a U-turn on the project, and will reconsider plans for the coal mine.
The CCC released a report in December 2020 on recommendations for the Sixth Carbon Budget as a requirement under the Climate Change Act.
Guidance from the CCC advisory committee highlighted that the use of coking coal should be curbed by 2035, whereas the council granted permission to mine until 2049.
A spokesperson for the local authority explained that the decision to pause the project was taken in light of the recommendations: ‘The report, among other things, sets out the volume of greenhouse gases the UK aims to emit during 2033-2037. This new information has been received prior to the issue of the formal decision notice on the application.’
The CCC advice looks to reduce UK emissions by 78 per cent in 2035, in light of the legally binding net zero emissions by 2050 target. The committee asks the UK to ‘front-load’ decarbonisation on the road to net-zero to minimise costs.
Recently the committee also wrote to Jenrick to warn the mine would produce more emission than any other in the UK, sending out the wrong message in the context of the COP 26 UN climate summit to be held this November in Glasgow.
Friends of the Earth climate campaigner reinforced this feeling, reflecting: ‘Allowing this climate-wrecking coal mine to go-ahead would completely undermine UK leadership ahead of this year’s vital climate summit.’
Leading climate scientist James Hansen wrote a letter to prime minister Boris Johnson, underlining that the ‘shocking’ approval for the mine displays ‘contemptuous disregard for the future of young people’.
Advocates of the mine pointed out that the project would boost local employment, and minimise the need for coal imports by the steel sector. However, green experts countered that under the UK net-zero targets, steel-makers would be forced to convert to new hydrogen technologies. Moreover, 85 per cent of the coal extracted was planned to be exported, and there is no shortage of coal globally. Therefore, any jobs created would be unstable and short-term at best.
While government defended that this mine is a local decision, Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband urged Jenrick to take control: ‘The government now has a second chance to do the right thing and call it in.’