Environmentalists are furious as Britain approves first new coal mine in 30 years

Britain’s Leveling Up secretary Michael Gove has provoked the fury of environmental campaigners by approving a controversial new coal mine in Cumbria.

After years of government delays, planning permission has been granted for the UK’s first new site in 30 years.

The Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said the coal will be used for steel production, not power generation.

Friends of the Earth called it a “horrifying decision” that will damage the fight against the climate crisis without replacing Russian coal.

Supporters of the coking coal mine on the outskirts of Whitehaven in Cumbria, which is expected to produce nearly 2.8 million tonnes a year, say it will create around 500 jobs.

DLUHC said Mr Gove “agreed to grant planning permission for a new metallurgical coal mine in Cumbria as recommended by the Independent Planning Inspector”.

“This coal is used for steel production and would otherwise have to be imported. It will not be used to generate electricity,” a statement said.

“The mine aims to be net zero in its operations and is expected to contribute to local employment and the broader economy.”

Fellow Conservative Lord Deben, chairman of the climate change committee that advises the government, condemned the decision as undermining Britain’s efforts to reach net zero.

“The UK’s hard-fought global impact on climate will be reduced by today’s decision,” he said.

He said it also sends “a completely wrong signal to other countries about the UK’s climate priorities”.

Worker shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband said it “does not solve the energy crisis, it does not provide secure, long-term jobs and it shows that this government is giving up any pretense of climate leadership.”

“Further rolling this mine cements Rishi Sunak as a legacy fossil fuel PM in a renewable energy era,” the MP said.

The decision comes just over a year after the UK hosted the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, where it urged other countries to “leave coal to history”.

The move also threatens to anger some Conservative MPs, including former Cabinet Minister Alok Sharma, who has campaigned for the mine to be closed.

Mr Sharma, who was President of Cop26, warned over the weekend that it would “not only be a step backwards for Britain’s climate action but would also damage Britain’s hard-won international reputation”.

On Wednesday, Friends of the Earth activist Tony Bosworth said: “Permitting this mine is a misguided and deeply damaging mistake that contradicts all evidence.

“The mine is not needed, will increase global climate emissions and will not replace Russian coal.”

The planning inspector who recommended the site’s approval wrote that the development is “overall carbon neutral.”

Stephen Normington said the amount of coal used in steelmaking is “broadly the same” with or without the mine.

“Consequently, I believe that the proposed development has a broadly neutral effect on the global release of greenhouse gases (greenhouse gas) from coal used in steelmaking, whether or not end-use emissions are accounted for,” he wrote.

Greenpeace UK Policy Director Doug Parr said: “The UK government risks becoming a superpower in climate hypocrisy rather than climate leadership.

“How can we expect other countries to cut fossil fuel extraction if we build new coal mines here?”

Tom Fyans, interim chief executive of rural charity CPRE, described the decision as “absurdly regressive”.

“Rather than seize the opportunity to lead the world in a clean and green industrial revolution, here we are clinging to the dirty coal that fueled and poisoned the Victorian era,” he said.

“This shameful decision is unbelievable. It will damage the landscape, pollute the atmosphere and make a mockery of the government’s legally binding climate commitments.

“The people of Cumbria are crying out for good jobs and a stable future.”

There was also local opposition to the mine, but Mike Starkie, the Conservative Mayor of Copeland in Cumbria, said he was “absolutely over the moon” with the decision, which he described as “the biggest announcement in generations”.

“It will bring jobs, prospects and opportunities to the people of West Cumbria and the people of West Cumbria will be grateful to them for generations,” he said.

But the Liberal Democrats have criticized the government for authorizing the “deeply harmful” mine.

Environment spokesman Tim Farron said: “This decision reverses all the progress the UK has made on renewable energy. The government’s environmental record remains in shambles once again.

“Rishi Sunak’s government is ruining our country’s reputation as a world leader in reducing emissions. He does not represent the views of the public that wants green, clean projects.”

https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/environmentalists-anger-as-uk-approves-first-new-coal-mine-in-30-years-42204478.html Environmentalists are furious as Britain approves first new coal mine in 30 years

Fry Electronics Team

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