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Climate summit president warns of hit to UK ‘reputation’ if coal mine gets go-ahead

The Independent
The Independent
 2022-12-03

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The president of the Cop26 climate summit has attacked plans to open a coal mine in Cumbria , arguing it is not needed and won’t create many jobs.

Alok Sharma – who was sacked by Rishi Sunak – also warned the UK’s “hard-won international reputation” over the climate emergency would be undermined.

A decision is expected next week, from levelling-up secretary Michael Gove , on a go-ahead for the UK’s first deep coal mine in 30 years, after months of delay and growing international criticism.

Earmarked for the edge of Whitehaven, it is projected to increase UK greenhouse gas emissions by 0.4 million tonnes a year, according to the government’s independent climate advisers.

Supporters argue it will ease Britain’s reliance on foreign imports – but critics say the added emissions will be the equivalent of those generated by around 200,000 cars or 170,000 homes.

Now Mr Sharma, who also represented the UK at the recent Cop27 conference in Egypt, has hit out at the proposal, pointing to the “clear implications for our legally binding carbon budgets”.

“As a decision on granting permission for a new coal mine in Cumbria looms, some facts,” the Conservative backbencher tweeted.

“Eighty-five per cent 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.”

Mr Sharma added that the mine is “expected to create 500 jobs”, but added there is the “potential for 6,000 GREEN jobs in Cumbria by 2030”, according to advisers at the Climate Change Committee .

He warned: “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.”

Mr Sharma’s intervention undermines how the coal mine decision will provoke further turmoil within the Tory party – whether or not it gets the go-ahead.

Mr Sunak is under strong pressure from many so-called “red wall” MPs to approve it, as a symbol of the battered levelling-up policy.

The new mine would have planning permission until 2049 – one year before the UK is legally committed to meet a net zero climate emissions target.

The Climate Change Committee has advised that coking coal should only be used in steelmaking beyond 2035 if a “very high proportion” of emissions is captured and stored.

It has also warned it may not be necessary by 2035 as new technologies in steelmaking come on stream.

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