Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), has called on the government to rethink its recent decision to give the go-ahead to a planned coal mine in Cumbria.
In his letter sent to Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, he stressed the West Cumbria Mining Company’s deep coking coal mine project will increase global greenhouse gas emissions and conflict with the national target of delivering net zero by 2050.
He noted if it goes ahead, the project will “have an appreciable impact on the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets” by driving national emissions up by 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per year – this figure exceeds the annual projected emissions output from all open UK coal mines up until 2050.
The planning permission would allow the plant to operate until 2049, with 85% of output expected to be shipped to Europe. Lord Deben notes that he expects there to be no domestic use for coking coal after 2035.
He said: “It is not the CCC’s role to act as a regulator or a planning authority, but we would urge you to consider further the UK’s policy towards all new coal developments, for whatever purpose.
“This decision also highlights the critical importance of local councillors and planning authorities considering fully the implications of their decisions on climate targets. In this regard, I would ask that we discuss the provision of guidance to local authorities. It is for Ministers to decide how the effort to reach Net Zero should be allocated across the economy, but it is also important to note that this decision gives a negative impression of the UK’s climate priorities in the year of COP26.”
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “Planning decisions should be made at a local level wherever possible.
“This application has not been called-in and is a matter for Cumbria County Council to decide.”