Cumbria coal mine: Climate tsar urged to quit over 'reckless' plan

Alok Sharma should resign unless plans for a deep coal mine in Cumbria are dropped, Lib Dems say.

Feb. 5, 2021 4 minSource

The UK's climate tsar, Alok Sharma, has been urged to resign unless the prime minister scraps plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria.

Mr Sharma, who will lead a vital UN climate conference in Glasgow in November, is said to be "apoplectic" over the decision to approve the mine.

The Lib Dems say the project, earmarked for a site near Whitehaven, undermines Mr Sharma's position.

They have called for him to tender his resignation over the issue.

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey - a former energy secretary and climate negotiator - said in his letter to Mr Sharma: "I want to urge you in the strongest possible terms to advise the prime minister... that he must find a way to overturn the recent decision to grant planning permission to the Cumbrian coal mine to 2049.

"I would ask you, whether you would consider tendering your resignation as COP president to the prime minister if he fails to act?"

The mine plans were agreed initially by Cumbria County Council last year.

Councillors said there was no good reason to reject the application, and the mine's supporters said it would bring hundreds of well-paid jobs to the area.

They say it will produce coking coal for the UK's steel industry, and save on imports.

But the government's advisors, the Climate Change Committee, said 85% of the Cumbrian coal would be exported.

They said the UK steel industry needs to be using clean technologies by 2035, whereas the mine has been consented to 2049.

Dozens of groups have written to the PM urging him to overturn the decision, and they have been joined by one of the world's leading climate scientists - the former scientific head of NASA, Dr Jim Hansen.

Mr Davey warns of the impact on the UK's international credibility, especially in the year when the UK is heading the UN COP26 climate conference.

His letter continues: "To gain and retain credibility as a leader for ambition on climate change action, it is vital that the UK has a strong domestic record on climate action.

"The need for this has increased many times over now we have the COP presidency for Glasgow later this year.

"Up until this decision on the Cumbrian coal mine, the UK can point to a strong record of domestic climate action.

"So it is extraordinary and highly reckless for this hard-won reputation and record to be put at risk by this decision now to allow the mine.

"In my experience, obtaining a successful outcome at any COP requires both leadership, skill and some luck.

"With the new US President, Joe Biden, the world is enjoying some luck and new leadership. It is essential you and the prime minister do not let the UK and the world down."

The £165m West Cumbria Mining plan was approved by Cumbria County Council in October. It would be the UK's first deep coal mine in 30 years.

The Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick could have over-ruled the plans for a public inquiry, but chose not to.

Mike Starkie, the Conservative mayor of Copeland Borough Council, said: "I think the project is absolutely fantastic, it'll bring huge amounts of jobs and prosperity into the area.

"It's been broadly welcomed across Copeland. I've never known a project that has carried so much public support."

The Conservative Environmental Network, a forum for green-minded Tories, opposes the proposed mine.

Stanley Johnson, the prime minister's father and an ambassador for the network, told the BBC it was a "massive mistake in public relations terms".

He said: "How can we ask other countries to bring in their climate change reduction programmes when we are now reopening the whole coal argument here in Britain?"

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

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