Coal is Back in The UK

Michael Gove says the government has identified a UK and European market for coal, though the project in Cumbria will reportedly be 'net-zero' in its ambitions

Alliance News 8 December, 2022 | 9:16AM
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Didcot Power Station

The UK government on Wednesday granted planning permission for a controversial new coal mine in the north of England, the first to be built in decades.

The project in Cumbria, northwestern England, has long faced outcry from environmental campaigners and the decision to grant permission was slammed by Greenpeace as "climate hypocrisy".

The government said Levelling Up minister Michael Gove "has decided to grant planning permission" for the project, which will seek to be net zero in its operations.

The minister said he was satisfied that "there is currently a UK and European market for the coal" and "it is highly likely that a global demand would remain".

His decision came after the government announced an inquiry last year into the project by Australian-owned West Cumbria Mining, to be located near the town of Whitehaven in northwest England. 

The government said the mine will produce coal to be used to make steel, not generate power, and its commitment to phase out coal power by 2024 remains in place.

Gove said he agreed "the proposed development would have an overall neutral effect on climate change and is thus consistent with Government policies for meeting the challenge of climate change".

But environmental groups said approval for the new mine undermines the UK's climate pledges.

"The UK government risks becoming a superpower in climate hypocrisy rather than climate leadership," Greenpeace UK policy director Doug Parr said.

"The approval of the Whitehaven coal mine crushes the UK's climate credibility," said Oxfam's climate change policy advisor Lyndsay Walsh.

The UK wants to become carbon neutral by 2050, and then-prime minister Boris Johnson promised to make the country the "Saudi Arabia" of wind power at the UN climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow last year.

The UK has seen a rapid transformation in its energy model, with coal representing only three percent of energy consumed in 2020, compared to 20% in 2013.

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