The UK government lights the first new coal mine in three decades


Scientists, environmentalists and even the UK government’s climate advisers sharply criticized its decision to approve a plan to open the country’s first new coal mine in three decades, just over a year after the country tried to persuade the world to give up its shit. Fossil fuels at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow.

Michael Gove, UK Minister for Housing and Communities, on Wednesday He agreed to the plan to open the Whitehaven colliery in Cumbria, a county in northwest England that includes the World Heritage-listed Lake District.

The controversial mine is expected to create more than 500 jobs. But the environmental trade-off is severe: The UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent group that advises the government, has estimated the mine and the coal it will produce. It emits about 9 million tons of greenhouse emissions each year.

Supporters of the mine argue that the project will create jobs and secure fossil fuels for the British steel industry; However, 85% of the coal mined is to be exported.

The CCC criticized the decision. Committee chair Lord Debben said in a statement: “Phasing out coal use is the clearest requirement of the global effort towards net zero. We therefore condemn the Foreign Secretary’s decision to approve the construction of a new deep coal mine in Cumbria, contrary to our previous advice. This decision leads to an increase in global emissions.” and undermining UK efforts to achieve net zero.”

The approval of the mine has also been met with harsh criticism from scientists and environmentalists.

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“A new coal mine in Cumbria makes no environmental or economic sense,” Paul Eakins, professor of resources and environmental policy at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, said in a statement. “It will add to global carbon dioxide emissions, as the new supply will not replace other coal but divert it elsewhere, and it will become stuck in the 2030s as the steel industry globally moves away from coal.”

Ekins also said that approval of the mine “undermines the UK’s reputation as a global leader in climate action and opens it up to well-justified accusations of hypocrisy – asking other countries to give up coal while not doing so themselves”.

The government initially approved the project, but then put it on hold after a wave of protests, including a 10-day hunger strike by teenage activists.

And it was hard-pressed to reject the plan in 2021, the year it hosted the COP26 talks in Glasgow.

Alok Sharma, president of COP26 and MP for the ruling Conservative Party, campaigned against the mine.

“Opening a new coal mine would not only be a step backwards for UK climate action, but would also damage the UK’s hard-won international reputation, through our presidency of COP26, as a leader in the global fight against climate change,” he said ahead of the conference. . Announcement on Wednesday.

The decision comes just over a year after the conference, and after lengthy discussions between the UK government, local authorities and the public.

Cumbria County Council has also approved the plan three times, but reversed its decision last February and called for a planning inquiry, effectively turning the decision over to the national government.

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The Whitehaven mine, also known as the Woodhouse Colliery, is set to operate until 2049, just a year before the deadline set by the United Kingdom for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero (emitting as few greenhouse gases as possible, and offsetting any unavoidable emissions).

According to the International Energy Agency, investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure must stop immediately if the world is to have any chance of achieving net zero by 2050. And the latest climate science shows that achieving net zero by mid-century is necessary to prevent temperatures from rising well above 1.5 °C, compared to pre-industrial times. Beyond this threshold, the world will face effects of the climate crisis that could take thousands of years to rectify, or could be completely irreversible.

Climate activists protested the project, while West Cumbria Mining, which is developing the mine, said the project would create hundreds of new jobs in the ailing area. Its opponents argue that these jobs may not be safe, given the huge momentum in Europe to phase out coal.

“The opening of a coal mine in Cumbria invests in 1850s technology and does not look forward to a low-carbon domestic energy future in 2030,” Stuart Haszeldine, a professor in the University of Edinburgh’s School of Geosciences, said in a statement.

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