UK authorities greenlights first new coal mine in three a long time


The UK has greenlit a controversial plan to open the nation’s first new coal mine in three a long time, a bit of greater than a yr after the nation tried to persuade the world to ditch coal on the COP26 local weather talks in Glasgow.

Michael Gove, the UK housing and communities secretary, on Wednesday authorised the plan to open the Whitehaven coal mine in Cumbria, a county in northwestern England that’s house to the World Heritage-listed Lake District.

The controversial mine is anticipated to create greater than 500 jobs. However the environmental trade-off is steep: The UK Local weather Change Committee (CCC), an unbiased group that advises the federal government, has estimated the mine and the coal it is going to produce will emit round 9 million tons of planet-warming emissions yearly.

Supporters of the mine argue the venture will create jobs and safe the fossil gas for British steelmaking; nonetheless, 85% of the coal mined is because of be exported.

The CCC has criticized the choice. Committee chairman Lord Deben stated in a press release: “Phasing out coal use is the clearest requirement of the worldwide effort in direction of Web Zero. We condemn, due to this fact, the Secretary of State’s choice to consent to a brand new deep coal mine in Cumbria, opposite to our earlier recommendation. This choice grows international emissions and undermines UK efforts to realize Web Zero.”

The mine’s approval was additionally met with fierce criticism from scientists and environmentalists.

“A brand new coal mine in Cumbria is mindless environmentally or economically,” stated Paul Ekins, Professor of Sources and Environmental Coverage on the UCL Institute for Sustainable Sources, in a press release. “It would add to international CO2 emissions, as the brand new provide is not going to exchange different coal however divert it elsewhere, and it’ll change into stranded within the 2030s because the metal business globally strikes away from coal.”

Ekins additionally stated that the mine’s approval “trashes the UK’s popularity as a world chief on local weather motion and opens it as much as effectively justified costs of hypocrisy – telling different nations to ditch coal whereas not doing so itself.”

The federal government initially authorised the venture, however then put it on maintain after a wave of protests, together with a 10-day starvation strike by two teenage activists.

It got here beneath intense stress to reject the plan in 2021, the yr it hosted the COP26 talks in Glasgow.

Alok Sharma, the COP26 President and a lawmaker for the governing Conservative Occasion, campaigned towards the mine.

“Opening a brand new coal mine is not going to solely be a backward step for UK local weather motion but additionally injury the UK’s hard-won worldwide popularity, by our COP26 Presidency, as a pacesetter within the international battle towards local weather change,” he stated forward of the announcement on Wednesday.

The choice comes a bit of greater than a yr after the convention, and after prolonged discussions between the UK authorities, native authorities and the general public.

The Cumbria County Council had additionally authorised the plan thrice, but it surely backtracked its choice final February and known as for a planning inquiry, successfully shifting the choice to the nationwide authorities.

The Whitehaven mine, often known as the Woodhouse Colliery, is scheduled to function till 2049, which is only a yr earlier than the UK’s self-imposed deadline to slash greenhouse fuel emissions to internet zero (emitting as little greenhouse fuel as attainable, and offsetting any emissions that can not be prevented).

In response to the Worldwide Vitality Company, funding into new fossil fuels infrastructure should cease instantly if the world needs any likelihood of attaining internet zero by 2050. The newest local weather science exhibits that attaining internet zero by mid-century is critical to maintain temperatures from rising effectively above 1.5 levels Celsius, in contrast with pre-industrial instances. Past that threshold, the world will face local weather disaster impacts that would take millennia to appropriate, or might be irreversible altogether.

Local weather activists have protested towards the venture, whereas West Cumbria Mining, which is growing the mine, stated the venture would convey lots of of recent jobs right into a struggling area. Its opponents argue these jobs will not be safe, given the large momentum in Europe to part out coal.

“Opening a coal mine in Cumbria is investing in 1850s expertise and doesn’t look ahead to the 2030s low carbon native vitality future,” Stuart Haszeldine, a professor on the College of GeoSciences on the College of Edinburgh, stated in a press release.