Third week – Inquiry will consider the climate credentials of the proposed new Cumbria coal mine

21 Sep 2021

Planning and Environment, Cornerstone Climate

Today sees the public inquiry into the ‘called in’ application for the UK’s first deep coal mine in 30 years enter its third week.

In its first and second weeks, the inquiry considered the proposed economic benefits of the scheme and the need for the coking coal to be produced by the mine in the UK and European steelmaking industries. This week the Inspector will hear expert evidence on the climate impacts of the proposed mine and consider whether the development is consistent with Government policies for meeting climate change targets and associated greenhouse gas emissions budgets.

The inquiry is presently scheduled to run for four weeks. Estelle Dehon and Rowan Clapp act for South Lakes Action on Climate Change [1] (‘SLACC’) instructed by Matthew McFeeley of Richard Buxton Solicitors.

Today the developer, West Cumbria Mining (WCM), will open its controversial case for the mine as a ‘net zero’ emissions development compliant with the UK’s commitment to stringent greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Tomorrow Friends of the Earth will lead evidence from Professor John Barrett of Leeds University, who is a global expert on carbon accounting, and who addresses why the Cumbrian coal should be part of the 80% of ‘unburnable’ remaining fossil fuel reserves if dangerous global warming is to be avoided.

SLACC will be leading evidence from Professor Michael Grubb, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at University College London and former member of the UK Climate Change Committee, who addresses the serious and unassessed impacts of methane and carbon dioxide which will be caused by the mine, showing why it cannot be described as a ‘net zero mine’ and why granting permission would inhibit domestic compliance with the UK’s Carbon Budgets. This evidence is presently scheduled to be heard from 2pm on Wednesday 22 September 2021.

SLACC will also be leading evidence from Professor Sir Robert Watson, former Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former senior scientific advisor to the UK and US governments, who explains how granting permission for the proposed mine would undermine the UK’s international role as a climate leader and frustrate international diplomatic efforts to reduce reliance on coal, leading to heightened greenhouse gas emissions globally. This evidence is presently scheduled to be heard from 10am on Thursday 23 September 2021.

This evidence shows the mine will add another source of greenhouse gas emissions at a time when there is clear international consensus on the urgent need to reduce those emissions, in light of the existential threat posed by climate change.

As the UK hosts COP26 in November this year, the potential grant of permission for a new coal mine would send the damaging message that the UK talks the talk but does not walk the walk on climate action.

[1] SLACC was established in 2007 after a City Councillor from San Salvador visited Kendal as part of a speaking tour and explained that mudslides in his city, caused by torrential rain as a result of climate change, had led to deaths. He brought home that climate change would get worse and affect people across the world. A key recent part of SLACC’s work has been opposing the mine proposal, garnering support from experts such as the Materials Processing Institute and Professor Paul Ekins OBE, Professor in resources and environmental policy at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, University College London.