coal still on agenda in West Cumbria

  • Post last modified:June 11, 2024
  • Reading time:6 mins read

West Cumbria community members gathered over the weekend to highlight a proposed coal mine in the context of the general election and upcoming court case in order to pose the question: who will stop the coal mine?

General election: still about coal

Local candidates for the Whitehaven and Workington constituency were invited to attend and declare their intentions to onlooking media and community members. Lib Dems candidate, Chris Wills, announced his party’s intention to not allow any new coal mines in the UK.

The demonstration was carried out on the proposed site of the West Cumbria coal mine and highlighted the decision that the next government will have to make about whether or not to allow the mine. Attendees were keen to force this question into the election campaign and ask that it becomes a mainstay of questions asked to candidates until 4 July:

The proposed mine is being prevented, at present, by two legal cases which will be heard in the High Court from 16 to 18 July. If the court rules against the approval given by Michael Gove in 2022, the next government will be required to decide whether to approve the mine or not.

If the court allows the current decision to stand, the next government could use powers under Section 100 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, to revoke the mine’s planning permission.

Stop the West Cumbria mine

Local resident Fiona Heslam has been opposed to the mine since she first heard about it. She said:

I will not vote for a party that will allow this project to proceed. I want to know what action parties will take on the mine before I vote.

The arguments for this mine originally said that it was coal for UK steel plants and local jobs. The use of the coal for steel has proved to be a fallacy and the jobs argument cynically ignores the fact that this mine would become a stranded asset.

Every time fossil fuels are invested in, it stifles research & development in clean solutions. It’s those clean solutions that could provide good long term jobs. If a party shows me a good plan that gives us that, they’ll get my vote.

Misleading claims have been made suggesting that the mine will lower emissions whilst bringing energy security to the UK.

No use for the coal

However the coal extracted in Cumbria would not be used domestically or in the EU because of its high sulphur content. Coal from the West Cumbria mine would not be burned for power generation because the UK’s last coal fired power station will close permanently in September this year.

The coal from Whitehaven also contains too much sulphur to be allowed to be burned in the UK and EU. So even if the two steel works left in the UK weren’t transitioning in the coming years, they still wouldn’t use Whitehaven coal.

The demonstration has taken place days after UN secretary general António Guterres called fossil fuels corporations the “godfathers of climate chaos” as new reports show each of the past 12 months have set new global temperature records for the time of year.

Organisers also referenced the ongoing Bonn Climate Change Conference (3-13 June) as they highlighted the impact of the proposed mine on the UK’s international diplomacy efforts.

Anthony Collins, Policy Campaigner at Coal Action Network said:

The proposed coal mine at Whitehaven is a huge stain on the UK’s climate leadership in the international community. Where we once helped to lead the world beyond coal, we are now seen as hypocrites because this mine was approved.

If you want a secure future, mining coal will not provide that. If you want change, mining coal will not provide that. If you want a fair deal, mining coal will not provide that. All candidates at this election should commit to stopping this mine.

Vote in the general election for non-fossil fuel lobbyists

High profile opponents of the mine include Julia Steinberger, IPCC author and Kate Rayworth, author of Doughnut Economics. Although not in attendance, they sent comments to be read out at the demonstration.

Julia Steinberger said:

The science is clear and visible all around us. Climate chaos is here, and every day that we keep using fossil fuels, no matter where they are extracted, contributes to the worsening of the crisis. We know we need to move away from fossil fuels – especially coal – as fast as possible.

A new coal mine is a commitment: a commitment to pollution, emissions, and a deadly worsening future for all living creatures on Earth, including our children. Thanks so much to the activists for being here today. You are truly the life on earth, protecting itself, protecting all of us. I wish I could be there with you. No more coal!

Kate Raworth said:

Here we are, almost one quarter of the way through the 21st century, yet still absurdly talking about coal, as if we were stuck 100 years or more in the past.

There’s no future in Coal – in West Cumbria, in the UK, in Europe or in the world. Let’s not make our children and grandchildren stare back at us in disbelief, wondering what destructive drive – whether incompetence, corruption or greed – led the politicians of the 2020s to keep pushing this country back into the fossil fuel past, when the best way forward was already clear.

Out of respect for the living world, for the local community, and for the future: It’s finally time to stop this mine!

Featured image and video via Coal Action Network

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