Updated Dec 6, 2022

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Cumbria coalmine is "backward step", says former COP26 President

The government is currently in heated discussions on whether to approve or deny the planning permission on the development of a new coal mine in Cumbria. The decision has been pushed back multiple times since 2020, when the Cumbria County Council initially approved the plans. The decision on this matter is now expected to be made by 8 December 2022.

The issue of investing in new coal developments has been a hot topic and the Conservative party has been under great pressure from green groups as well as their own members who say that the investment in new coal is against the net-zero policy and will compromise the efforts already made to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Now, the former COP26 president, Alok Sharma MP, is joining the criticism over this controversial development, saying that "Over the past three years the UK has sought to persuade other nations to consign coal to history, because we are fighting to limit global warming to 1.5C and coal is the most polluting energy source".

"A decision to open a new coal mine would send completely the wrong message and be an own goal. This proposed new mine will have no impact on reducing energy bills or ensuring our energy security."

He also brought up some information in relation to the proposed development in his tweet:

"As a decision on granting permission for a new coal mine in Cumbria looms, some facts:

  • 85% of coal produced would be for export, not domestic use
  • two major UK steel producers won’t necessarily use much of the coal, not least due to its composition and sulphur content
  • the Climate Change Committee (CCC) has noted that the mine would increase UK's CO2 emissions by 0.4Mt annually: clear implications for our legally binding carbon budgets.

"Opening a new coal mine will not only be a backward step for UK climate action but also damage the UK's hard-won international reputation, through our COP26 Presidency, as a leader in the global fight against climate change."

Speaking with the Observer, Lord Stern of Brentford, who was responsible the development of multiple policies, including on climate, said: "Opening a coalmine in the UK now is a serious mistake: economic, social, environmental, financial and political,"

"Economically, it is investing in the technologies of the last century, not this, and that is the wrong path to growth. Socially, it is pursuing jobs in industries that are on the way out, creating future job insecurity. Environmentally, it is adding to world supply and thus consumption of coal and releasing greenhouse gases, when there is an urgent need to reduce them. And politically, it is undermining the UK's authority on the most important global issue of our times."

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