Update: on 11 March, the government announced that it will intervene in the decision over the proposed new coal mine in Cumbria. According to an official letter seen by The Independent, the government plans to hold a public enquiry on the mine, which it had previously insisted was a local matter. They mentioned new information from their climate advisors, and ‘increased controversy’ around the project (👋) as the reasons for the change.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on this as more details emerge, but in the meantime you can read the original story below. Stay tuned, and thanks for your ongoing support.
I can’t believe I’m writing this. The government has just allowed plans for the UK’s first deep coal mine in 30 years to go ahead.
Over a decade ago I was one of six Greenpeace activists who climbed the smokestack at Kingsnorth power station to protest plans for a new coal plant there.
We knew that the UK shouldn’t be building new coal power stations in an age of climate change. And our action – and the groundbreaking court case that followed – helped to transform the debate.
Since then the UK has moved drastically away from reliance on a dirty source of energy that we just don’t need. We’ve made commitments to massively cut emissions by 2030 and to reach net zero by 2050.
So allowing the first deep coal mine in 30 years to go ahead is simply wrong and goes against any efforts to tackle the climate crisis. I can’t stand by and let this happen, and I hope you won’t either.
Will you demand the government shows climate leadership by scrapping plans for this new coal mine and commits to finally ending the era of coal?
Do UK steelmakers even want the coal from this mine?
The new mine near Whitehaven, in Cumbria, would produce coking coal, which is used to make steel. However, it’s not clear that coal from this mine could be used to a significant degree by steelworks in the UK. Analysis from local campaigners found that the high sulphur content in this coal would force any UK steelmaker to make major investment in sulphur abatement technology (to prevent acid rain) before they could use it.
Neither of the major steelmakers in the UK (British Steel at Scunthorpe and Tata at Port Talbot) has committed to purchasing it given these potential quality issues, so aside from being polluting, most of the mined coal would need to go overseas. In fact, the Climate Change Committee says 85% of the coal from this mine is planned for export to Europe. It’s clear that the main purpose of this mine is not supporting the UK steel industry
But even if Cumbrian coal could be used substantially in UK steelworks (which it likely can’t), any minor savings on transportation of coal, would be dwarfed by the impact of increasing the overall supply of coal in the wider market.
Analysing the impact of the mine, UCL economist Paul Ekins said “I would expect [it] to result in considerable additional global greenhouse gas emissions and make it more difficult for the UK to meet its carbon reduction targets”
This isn’t just a local issue – burning coal affects us all
The government minister responsible, Robert Jenrick, refused to block the new coal mine because he said it was a “local issue”. That’s just not true – it’s an issue for all of us, the planet and future generations.
In a year when the UK government will be hosting the major COP26 climate talks, inviting leaders from around the world to agree on how they plan to tackle the climate crisis – building a £165m coal mine just doesn’t make sense.
This government talks a good talk on climate leadership – it’s time to get serious.
We have so much to do if we are to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis. We shouldn’t have to make the case against coal. Let’s tell the government to act now.